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Monday, June 15, 2015

A Child Isn't a Joke

The situation would be frowned upon if it was about race or gender, but if it’s about children, society has no problem cracking a joke.
A seemingly harmless Facebook status about how hard it is to concentrate on work when surrounded by cute kids opens a gateway for generalized comments and jokes, such as “they’ll be doing something disgusting soon enough” or “Imagine them 10 years down the road stealing your car.” Somehow, even just the two word response “beat them” is considered funny. 
What? When did it become okay to make that sort of comment? 
Why is an age slur different than a race one and when are we as a society going to start treating our children as respected citizens?
2015 started off with many heated debates regarding free speech and what it meant. With the horrifying tragedies in Paris, some still questioned whether ridicule and criticism regarding any group was a fair representation of free speech. I have a problem with the statement “people should learn how to take a joke” especially since we are consistently battling bullying for our children in the schools. It feels like a mixed message.
We tell our children not to hurt others and to respect differences. We tell them to help others smaller than themselves, to see people as individuals and not stereotype groups. We encourage them to accept that others have different beliefs and cultures, but then, in grown up society, we can mock, sneer and jeer at whomever and whatever as long as it has a certain quality of wit. 
When I commented on the Facebook comment thread, simply saying that my kids were too incredible to be distracted from, I was told that “everyone loves their kids, but they like to laugh too.” I was being a killjoy. Because I was suggesting that children, individual human beings, who are at the beginning of learning about life, who are often struggling to adapt to adult surroundings and being expected to know how to be without being taught in simple steps, CHILDREN shouldn’t be laughed at, labelled as simply cute and stereotyped as people headed for trouble.
Is it social media that has us so cut off from basic consideration for others, both individually and as groups? Are we so desperately in search of that funny status that we’ll make fun of our loved ones or anyone standing too close?
I don’t even understand how it comes about. Why are children so often, generalized negatively when we were all young once? It’s not like different cultures where unless you live and breathe them it’s difficult to fully feel what they are. I remember being a child and my attempts at learning as I went along. Generalizing how I was going to behave based on my age often did me harm. In fact it left me isolated and confused. You remember, don’t you, that feeling of walking into a store and the staff watching you intently, and convinced you were going to sneak something into a pocket, all the while knowing it was usually the least suspecting that would shoplift.
In my mind any ridiculing of any stereotyped version of a group does one thing: it perpetuates more of that perspective. The power of words is that they create, they empower their message. The more we put focus on the mess children can create in their explorations, rather than on the excitement of their explorations themselves, the more it’s the mess we see. The more we comment on our children’s downfalls, even generalized downfalls which other people have made a joke of, the more we look to our children to back it up and the more we have a distorted view of who they are. It is like a projector goes up between us and them, and the image we watch of them is simply an image, no longer capable of personal connection.
My children and I laugh all the time. We joke about and have been known to raise passing people’s eyebrows with our giggles and goofy behaviour. However, they are being raised with the care not to make fun of things. If you make fun of something beautiful, even a fairytale, you will never see it the same way again. If you mock something then be prepared for your perspective to change forever. We’ve all occasionally watched a skit on a show like Saturday Night Live and repeat it in our minds with a laugh whenever we hear about the issue or person again. It’s the comic’s greatest legacy and responsibility to shift perspective to the humorous side. Do we want to change perspective of how we see our children?
We’re an ever evolving and developing human race. We are suppose to be forever moving forward, but we have to ask ourselves, can’t we learn that bullying is bullying, no matter the age or the cause, and that no victim should have to be told to “take a joke”. Verbal abuse is often in the form of ridicule and it is abuse, whether directed at one person or at a group, and generalization of children, like any group of people, simply creates walls against seeing people as individuals.

Our children, just like ourselves, are individuals. They sometimes make messes, make mistakes and occasionally act ridiculously cute, just like us. It’s all the process of this thing called life and all of us often need a helping hand of support not to be the butt of a Facebook joke.

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