Posted by pancho from pool0317.cvx20-bradley.dialup.earthlink.net (184.108.40.206) on Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 0:54AM :
Back in the early 70's when I had the Group Home for jubilent deliquents...I tried different ways to handle the food problem. Every boy made his own breakfast and there were lunch meats and sandwich fixins. But I figured we needed one hot meal where we all gathered round.
Had a cavernous dining room with a pool table in the center of it given to us by the wife of James Whittaker, first American to climb Everest...long story. We had a ping pong top on it so it made a great dining table.
For the first year I did all the cooking...and the boys took turns cleaning up after me. Then I made them take turns cooking and that was as much work as doing it myself, but better for them. The last six months, after returning from the second island, while trying to figure out what to do next, I got the Catholic College nearby to allow us to eat in their cafeteria any time we wanted to...finally, food and clean up was someone else's problem.
That first year though I would take one or two boys with me shopping. One night at a Safeway Store we were in line behind a Big Mama and her two sons, aged three and seven...or so. The younger boy slapped the older one in some kind of minor dispute...Big Moma turned round and whomped that kid a good one and yelled, "How many times I told you not to hit".
It was a sublime moment. We all looked at each other, and everyone knew, we all understood right then and there.
It starts very simply...and can be avoided altogether, or fixed almost as easily, if you start early enough.
My youngest boy has a naturally sunny disposition, got it from me. There are people who are mad as hell inside, just looking for some outlet, some incident...and there are others who'll take any chance you give them to smile.
When he was around five or so I watched him playing away...happy with some simple game...and I thought how easily I could damage him for the rest of his life in about a month if I applied the kinds of steady psychological torment I'd seen parents and the social justice system dole out.
Violence or the constant threat of it...irrational behavior determined solely by my erratic moods with no need of any justification or even as a result of any action of his...just whatever and whenever I felt like it...both witholding positive feedback and visiting ugly denunciations...all according to my whims...what was okay on Tuesday, because I felt fine, would ellicit a violent response on Thursday...just because my mood changed.
And most of all...the steady deadening of any human emotions by treating the kid coldly...as if I was following a manual on how to deal with a machine...those stiff hugs...no contact between bodies etc.
At the same time this depressing thought came to me...I also saw how easy it is to do the opposite...to inspire, to make secure...to make reasonable...to civilize a child.
I always assumed they were reasonable and capable of logic...never treated them like what people think children are...and made sure that they grew up "enjoyable",,,cause if I didn't like them...they wouldn't like themselves and we'd all go downhill after that.
People like to think whatever I learned from those boys only applies to "crimminals"...has no bearing on anyone else's behavior...as if they were from another planet altogether. Got news for you...nine-tenths of adult crimminals...and almost all juvenile delinquents are as normal as anyone out on the streets or in a Penthouse.
The essentials are the same...and sometimes even better.
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