When I was a child, most any playground dispute could be settled with a few words and, in extreme cases, a shove or two across the sports field. That simply is not the case today. My six year-old son, Dylan, returned home from school yesterday complaining that he had been punched in the face by an eleven year old neighbor. Not wanting to make a mountain out of a molehill, or worsen the matter anymore than it needed to be, his father went to speak with the boy’s mother. Not surprisingly, no one answered the door. Oh well. Boys will be boys – or so we thought.
Today after school, Dylan came home quite shaken and obviously upset. This boy had approached him again, only this time, the out-of-control eleven year old berated my son, threatened his life, and brandished what I later found out to be a metal pole with a pair of sharp scissors attached to the end, all the while telling Dylan and another boy that “he promises to end Dylan’s life.”
After a brief conversation with a few other children in the neighborhood, I learned that these were not the only events that had transpired on the route home from school. As it turns out, this young man had approached Dylan on the way home and aggressively lunged at him, making no attempts to hide his deplorable behavior from the hoards of other students making their way home. Feeling threatened, and not knowing how to react Dylan, I was told, cowered to the ground while this bully cruelly kicked him in the back of the head repeatedly. The tormenting child was told by other students to leave him alone. “He is only six, and has done nothing to you.” They insisted.
Much to the displeasure of several parents in the neighborhood, I contacted the police immediately. If that results in my being ostracized or labeled then so be it. I am unwilling to chalk this up to children simply being children. Once weapons and threats of death find their way into the hands and past the lips of children, blaming the behavior on typical boy behavior is no longer an option. Prior to the police’s arrival, Dylan’s father once again attempted to speak to the child’s mother, who openly lied and insisted that Dylan and the other children had made the story up. Claiming that her son was at ‘choir’ the entire time, not knowing that I had personally spoken to the boy minutes after Dylan had informed me of the occurrences.
What has changed over the last decade that has made it so easy for young children, barely teenagers, to consider using a dangerous, even deadly, weapon to cause harm to another child without even the slightest regard for the consequences? Are we de-evolving so rapidly that our children are now numb to the world and the people in it? At what point do we, as a society concerned for the so-called ‘future leaders of tomorrow’ step in and say enough is enough, something has to give? It is no longer about youth in revolt, or even typical adolescent rebellion, it is about young children being stripped of their innocence and forced into a way of thinking that violence and killing is apposite, and even tolerable, conduct.
Where does the blame lie? Do we blame Hollywood for pumping images of gun toting gangsters and slick ‘rebels without a cause’ into the minds of our children, or do we blame record producers for over marketing hardcore rap albums depicting drugs and violence towards women? Do we blame the media for glamorizing the brutality and sadism across the globe? Or, do we blame ourselves for letting our children watch the movies, listen to the music, and eat their dinners as they hear tales of wars, social unrest and massacres each evening on the nightly news and then not having the aptitude to teach them fact from fiction, right from wrong, and everything in between?