Monte Fast: Parents and children are losing a vital connection
Safe to assume that all of the readers of this morning’s Appeal are a bit numb and fearful at the terror news of the past few months. We share a common hope that our democracy and the leaders we have empowered might find a way to stop these shocks to our lives. We have heard the stories of children being destroyed, workers in a military complex never returning to their homes and families, theater auditoriums changed into execution chambers, or restaurants and shopping malls under fire. We ask politicians, psychiatrists, the military and law enforcers to accomplish what is beginning to sound like an impossibility. We desperately ask, won’t some expert somewhere figure this out and put a stop to it? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just put the blame on someone or something? But let us admit it. This has grown beyond our ability.
We have lost a couple of generations. Perhaps a small percentage of our children, now grown, have moved beyond our ability to mold these terrible warps of the human psych away from violence. What can we do? I fear that we may be in danger of several decades of fear and violence. Holy scripture has taught for more than 2,000 years that we should “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” One of my mid-career teachers, who happened to be Jewish, shared an ancient proverb with me. “If the child eats nothing but garlic, will he not stink?” was his Eastern wisdom. There is one mighty reservoir of proven good. It worked so well and so transparently that we have forgotten the days when it was the primary tool in forming our democratic society. In one simple word, that asset is parenthood.
We have all sorts of scientific social studies that teach us that it is OK for both parents to spend their days earning money. Money for that second or third car. Money for that fancy boat. Money for that wide-screen 3D TV. And so many of our next generation gets two to three hours of mothering, or if they are lucky, a little fathering, and eight of the most important hours of their day in the care of child care specialists in an institutional setting. There is no way a babysitter can replace a mother. I’m not condemning day-care centers. I owned one for a while. The economics of today have made home parenting impossible. Being a full-time parent is nearly impossible from the economic demands it creates.
Our children see dozens of violent deaths on unsupervised television every week. Fast food, free breakfasts and school lunches replace family meal time, complete with the saying of a family prayer, or ever hearing Mom or Dad say a prayer. Our children are learning to imitate the actions of computer-generated “heroes” who literally are providing weapon training several hours each day. We are serving garlic, and our society is beginning to notice the strange odor.
I’m not sure we can turn the clock back. But that nice young couple, contemplating bringing a child into this world, can throw out the garlic. They can sacrifice the luxuries of the 21st century and give their children a mother and a father. In the presence of your children, try asking a blessing on one of your family meals every day for a week. It is the only thing we haven’t tried for the past few decades. And, oh yes, Sunday School might help … but that is another message.
Monte Fast, retired executive director of a local charity, now serves winters as chaplain at The Palms RV Resort of Yuma, Ariz.