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The New Normal

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Like most of us, I spend a little time on Facebook every day, and occasionally click on something that catches my eye. The other day I came across a posting about a toy, The Playmobil Security Checkpoint. I don’t have young children anymore (unless you count my one year old puppy who is chasing his tail as I write this) but there was something about the post that made me click on it. Perhaps it was my perceived bizarreness of the fact that there are toys like this even available…I’ll admit that the thought crosses my mind from time to time. In reading the tongue in cheek comments on this toy (such as this one from loosenut: “when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital”), it got me to thinking about the “new normal.”

iStock_000021446684XSmallIn yesterday’s post I was reminiscing about a photo from my childhood. In elementary school, I rode my bike to school, crossing several busy roads. I walked with friends to the roller skating rink, again crossing a busy road, and a deserted desert lot. We sold girl scout cookies door to door. I had a fair amount of freedom at a pretty young age.

There was no airport security, or school security. Parents didn’t worry about sending kids off to the bus stop by themselves, and didn’t know where their children were at all times. We didn’t have cell phones to check in either. Parents just had to trust we were safe.

We no longer feel comfortable giving our children the freedoms we ourselves had, because we don’t trust that our children are completely safe anymore. As a result, children today are less independent and self reliant than we were…and I don’t kid myself…our  parents were probably more self reliant than we were as well. Certainly we have good reason not to trust…our culture has changed. The increase in crime, violence, and threats have us all on edge. What has changed? We can point fingers but I don’t think we can say it’s any one thing. I do think in general people are more desensitized to crime and violence, and that’s a result of our culture. Last night, a re-run of Seinfeld came on as I was working on my computer.  Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George stood by and laughed and made jokes about a man while he was being robbed and carjacked.  And this was Seinfield…an extremely popular comedy in its day. I didn’t find it amusing…the comments they were made left a bad taste in my mouth even though it was just a tv show.

Now that my children are a bit older, I try to give them freedom to become self reliant. Sometimes it’s hard not to worry though. My daughter last year, at age 13, went on her first airplane trip by herself, to visit her aunt and uncle and cousins in Colorado. I was worried enough that she was traveling on her own, but on the way back, she got bumped from her flight, and was re-routed to Newark (her original return flight was to Hartford), getting in during the wee hours of the morning. Who bumps a child traveling alone?!! But she handled all of it with maturity and is ready to do it again. She wrote an essay on the experience for school, which I will share on the blog.

I know times have changed. But I’m sad that we can’t send our children off to school or a movie theatre and know they are completely safe.  Sad that we feel like we have to know where they are at all times.  Sad that they’re seeing and hearing things that destroy the innocence of childhood.  Most of all, I’m sad that this is the “new normal” for us.