As an educator and extremely proud big cousin of adolescents, my general feeling is that today’s youth don’t have many years to enjoy being kids. It has only been a little over ten years since I was the same age as the kids I now teach but so much seems to have changed in that short span of time. I remember when I was in middle school, I still liked jumping rope, playing jacks, and I lived for a good game of “Red Light-Green Light.” How shocked was I when my (newly) 13-year-old cousin told me she didn’t even know what jacks were? Thank goodness my grandma was able to teach her the basics, as she did for me years ago. And guess what? My cousin loves playing jacks now! Now, I am not bashing the youth of today. I, too, had a cell phone in eighth grade. I was into video games for a few years and til’ this day, you cannot keep me from a good movie, sitcom or episode of Spongebob. My issue is not technological-play replacing physical activity — well, at least not in this post. It’s the premature loss of innocence.
Growing up, I was always told “You have your whole life to be grown” and “Enjoy being a kid while you can.” I rolled my eyes then but HOT DAMN, those grown-ups were right! That being said, it is heartbreaking that kids practically roll out the womb not wanting to be children. With some cynicism, I am going to set the cut-off age for childhood at nine. I cite this age for many reasons:
Physicality: Kids are maturing quicker! When I was 12, health books and doctors alike were still citing the average age for the onset of menstruation as…well, 12! Now, almost every girl I come across is getting their period at eight, nine and 10. It’s mind-numbing and depressing. I feel sorry for them! All those extra years of being bound by bras and cramps. Damn. Naturally, boys aren’t sharing as much information with me because I’m a girl and that’s embarrassing and weird, but judging from the buzz in my family, boys are getting “peach-fuzz” on their legs, above their lips, under their arms, and on their nether regions at alarmingly fast rates, too. I can only assume this means they are producing motile sperm earlier, as well. Now, instead of putting teens under the microscope for having sex and making babies, we can shift the glaring light to people who still have Barbie and Spiderman bedspreads. Great. -_-
Interpersonal Relationships with Peers: Kids have all sorts of pressures to face down. The media is bad enough, but at least you can turn the TV, computer and radio off. Try muting your friends, though. It can’t be done. Not at that age. Most kids simply don’t have the maturity or wisdom to filter out bad advice and to ignore ignorant banter. They talk to and trust what their peers are saying. Some of the conversations I have heard passing by my kids’ desks or while walking through the hallways are unbelievable. I admit, I have chuckled while shaking my head at the sheer naiveté and ignorance that emerges from the mouths of my wee babes. However, sometimes I have to stop in my tracks and intervene! Some of the misconceptions are outright dangerous! I was stunned to find out kids still think drinking Mountain Dew will kill sperm and therefore, prevent pregnancy. Seriously? This is where an intelligent, level-headed parent or older sibling/cousin needs to step in and give kids “the real” — early and often.
Beyond passing around bad information, kids are pressuring each other to do very grown-up things. The drinking and drugging is bad enough but it’s the sex that grinds my gears most of all. Just days ago, a girl by the name of Amber Cole invaded the Twittersphere after a video of her performing oral sex on an adolescent boy outside of a school building hit the World Wide Web. I didn’t watch the video (because it could be considered child pornography) but I did get all the details I need to SMDH from here til’ the end of time. Poor, Amber. She is so insecure and loss. To add to that injury, her reputation will probably never be solid again 😦 I am truly sad. Being a teen is hard enough. As for the boys, they are insecure, too.
My first instinct was to dig into the boys for exploiting Amber via letting her perform the act and videotaping it. However, I realize she let herself do it and if the guys didn’t think it was “cool,” they probably would have been somewhere playing Madden. I am concerned about what kind of adults all of those who contributed to this video will become.
I’m sure everyone thinks Amber will become a hoe but I think she’s more likely to become a manic-depressive who abuses drugs or gets abused by some asshole she gives her all to. I hope none of the above is true and that one day, she looks in the mirror and sees herself for the queen she is. That day of realization is important for all women, but even more so for black women. Thanks to sexism and racism, that realization is not automatic for most. Once you get there, though, treating yourself like royalty and demanding that everyone else do the same is butter baby.
As for the young men, I would say the videographer has a promising career in the film industry after he is done completing a stint in the state pen for video voyeurism and/or groping. I don’t have much to say about the “recipient” other than I don’t expect him to be a protector of any black woman. He clearly doesn’t give a damn…already.
The bottom line is adolescents have their own little world and it’s not the most stable society. Can we as adults take the reins back? Please? Well, I want some of us to take the reins back. I’m forced to remember that some adults are just as misinformed, ignorant, naïve, insecure, and tactless as the tweens and teens.
The Media: I’m not going to spend much time talking about this. We know what’s on TV and we let our kids watch it — often. Enough said. Yes, when I was in middle school Cash Money was in full-effect. I was all about the “Hot Girls” and “Back Dat Ass Up” videos. I also could listen to “Shake It Fast” and “Wobble Wobble” all day. However, I did have the balance of Kirk Franklin’s “Stomp” and shows like “Reading Rainbow.” I’m pretty sure that made all the difference 🙂
I am not trying to give anyone the impression that I was a saint in middle school. I wasn’t. I kissed boys and “went with” people. I may have even let a guy or two cop a feel. These are things I shake my head at and chuckle about now. I just knew that I knew what I was doing. I got a little fresh in middle school but guess what I didn’t do during that era? LOSE MY VIRGINITY! WTF? I am not judging when people should have their first sexual experience but DAMN! Get all your parts warmed up and know what they do before you start using them! More importantly, have some basic sense of the responsibilities and possible consequences that come with sexual activity. Parents need to educate their children about what being an adult entails period and then point out all the reasons they are not ready for that status.