Monday, August 25, 2008

Let Us Not Mistake Innocence for Ignorance

One of the most important things I have learned from parenthood is never to ask a question that you don't really want a brutally honest answer for. If you crawl out of bed after a restless nights sleep, don't make any promptings regarding the state of you hair, the position of your pajamas, or the smell of your breath. Whether you want it or not, you are going to get an answer that may make your toes curl and fill you with a overwhelming desire to jump back into bed! It isn't that children are mean spirited or set on hurting you, they just don't have that filter in place that suggests they stop prior to battered feelings or wounded egos. They are still innocent. They lack the basic understanding of human nature or prideful attitudes. They say what they mean, and mean what they say. Personally, I think this is one of the things that makes having children so amazing and absolutely terrifying, all at the same time! If your child comes to you and says, "Wow Mama, you look so beautiful!" you know without a doubt that you are looking pretty spiffy that day. Or, every time you hear, "Mama, you are the best mommy in the whole world!" you can sit back, relish the sensational joy of that moment, and feel pretty good about that "Mom of the Year" mug in your cabinet. On the other hand, if you are standing in the check out line at your local grocer and your little one feels compelled to point out that the man bagging your groceries has an abnormally large nose, that honesty can seem like quite a curse. Again, it is not meanness, just innocence.

But this world doesn't like innocence very much, does it? Every year Hollywood puts out hundreds of movies geared towards young children, but very few of these features are actually rated "G" for general audiences. Nearly every movie that is featured on the back of a Happy Meal at McDonald's is actually rated PG or PG-13. Why is this? I have heard many theories, but none as convincing as the fact that we are forcing our kids to grow up way too quickly. One person stated that this was simply and attempt to entertain the parents while they spent time with their children. Maybe. Kids don't really notice those sexual innuendos or underhanded jokes, right? WRONG! Kids are VERY intuitive. They can pick up on the slightest undertones, body movement, and facial expressions. Don't believe me? Try having a child in the back of the car after you experience a near collision with that crazy guy trying to run the red light. You may not say much at the time, but the honk of your horn, the glare on your face, and the white knuckled grip on your steering wheel will leave your little one with little doubt that you are completely beyond livid! Kids are constantly watching you for cues, guidance on how to react to the world around them. They begin to find humor where you find humor. Cry at the same things you cry at. Whine at the same things, anger at the same things, sigh at the same things. Kids are sponges sucking in the world around them at every given turn, don't tell me they don't catch the subtle adult themes included in those movies!

Our world is forcing our little ones to grow at an extremely rapid rate. At every turn our kids are exposed to adult language, adult humor, and even hefty adult issues. Isn't it time we begin to take a stance again this? Instead of excusing the foul humor, adult themes, or mild language, let's rise up against it. Let's protect that innocence. Give these kids a little credit! They are NOT mindless drones wandering aimlessly through life! No, they may not have all the answers, but they are figuring things out pretty quickly. Instead of allowing their brief period of innocence to be sacrificed for the sake of progress, lets guard it for a while longer. Shelter them from the cannons of adulthood that are being constantly thrown their way. Adulthood will come faster than we want it to anyway, what's wrong with allowing kids to be kids for as long as they can be? After all, when you look back on your own childhood, don't you wish you could return to a time where there was no rent due, no place of work to rush off to, and no people hounding you with a ton of responsibility? I sure do! Instead of assuming our kids are ignorant to what is happening around them, let's give them the benefit of the doubt that they are smarter than we have assumed and make attempts to guard that innocent heart with all we have. Let's stop mistaking that innocence for ignorance and protect this ever fading, yet truly priceless commodity.

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