This is the first essay I wrote when I put Midnight Moonlight Madness on-line years ago, and I believe it to be the most important essay on my site. I edit it from time to time, clarifying murky points, correcting errors, and slightly changing some of my opinions as I learn and grow, but the core of what I know and believe about the topic of children remains unchanged since I wrote this essay on Jan. 4, 1998.
Why did I write an essay about children? Because the care and upbringing children and has always been an important issue in my life, dating back to when I was a child myself. I have always cared deeply about the welfare of children, and I have always been appalled at how badly I've observed many adults treating children (including myself) over the years. So when I finally got around to putting my own site on the World Wide Web, I felt compelled to speak out on the issue of children, to try to enlighten people. For clearly, enlightenment is needed, because I see far too many children being badly treated in the world around me.
Childhood should be a time of joy, wonder, and innocence. But for far too many children, it is not. We, the adult humans of planet Earth, have done a very horrible job of caring for our own offspring. Listen to this song: Enya's "Fairytale". What feelings does it evoke in you? To me, it evokes mostly-vanished memories of a few brief times of happiness, back in the 1960s, when I was 4, 5, 6 years old. But mostly, it fills me with sadness, for it speaks to me all the good things I didn't have as a child: loving parents, rational guidance, a secure home, and other things that should be the right of every child on this planet. The home situations of many of my fellow children as I grew up were as bad or worse. So it became clear to me at an early age that something was systemically wrong with how adults treat children in this world.
What's Going Wrong?
Our children are our most precious, valuable, and fragile resource for the future. The children of today are the adults of tomorrow. It is simply not acceptable that we bungle their care and upbringing! And yet, we are doing exactly that. The gruesome truth is, most human children are ill-cared-for. And this is not tolerable. We, the adult humans of planet Earth, must start taking better care of our offspring, for the sake of Love, for the sake of Good, and for the sake of our future. Our very existence depends on it.
Why do so many parents treat their children so badly? Why does it go all wrong in the teen years? Why do parents and children drift away from each other and lose emotional "contact"?
In short, What is going wrong?
You want to know what's going wrong? I'll tell you what's going wrong!
I look upon the world around me and I see a sick, sad, twisted society with little Love, logic, or sanity in it. I see a world in which humans are born, grow up, and die, usually without ever learning how to Love, because their parents were unable to Love them, because they too were unloved as children, this pattern continuing backward in time, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
I see a world in which the primary concern of most of the occupants is the comfort of the moment, where the next meal is coming from, where the next paycheck is coming from, whether there will be enough money to buy food or a new dress or a new Lexus, whether the Lakers will beat the Jazz, whether Smith will beat-out Jones for president, whether there's enough Bud Light or Jack Daniel's or Camels or grass or coke or smack to last the night, whether she will put-out or have a headache, whether to order the chicken fried steak or roast beef or a Big Mac, whether to join the Catholics or the Congregationalists or the Adventists or the Hare Krishnas or the Sikhs or the Muslims or the Koresh cult, whether to spend the night watching Dick Van Dyke reruns or Mary Tyler Moore or All In The Family or Silver Spoons or The X files or the Tyson/Holyfield rebite. Er, I mean rematch.
Is this really all there is? Is there nothing more?
I assure you, dear guest, there is much, much more to life than that!
The world view which I have presented to you above is pure illusion. It is "Koyaanisqatsi" (life out of balance), as the Hopis call it. (Ever see the movie "Koyaanisqatsi"? A fascinating movie about modern life, out of balance.) All is ephemeral dreams created to take our minds off the void left within when there is no Love in our lives. And by "Love", I do not mean "sex". I know that the word "Love" is used to mean "sex" in our society, but I use the word "Love" to mean "human-kind's innate capacity to care". That is a vastly different thing from sex. This caring, this interconnectedness, is the cohesive force that binds human society together; without it, we are doomed to eventual self-destruction. (See my web document about Love for much more on this topic.)
This interconnectedness is very difficult to learn late in life, though; it really needs to be learned in childhood. But how are our children going to learn Love when all we feed them from day one is hate? The only way to assure that your own offspring will have a happy, sane life is to Love them. This is easy to say but difficult to put into practice. Real Love is a life-long commitment to caring for another human being, not just a little bit, or some of the time, but a lot and all of the time. And that requires a lot of resources.
If you choose to bear or adopt children, think of what you're doing before hand. Do you have the personal resources? Do you have the Intelligence? Do you have the maturity? Do you have the self-control? Do you have the patience? Do you have the Love? Are you willing to give up 25 years of your life for this project? Do you have the money? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then don't have children! Please don't add to the millions of abused, neglected, hungry, homeless, unwanted, unloved, hurting children already in the world today! Believe it or not, the world does not have a shortage of human population right now. There is no logical reason to bring more children into the world if you can't take good care of them!
So how do you "take good care of" a child? By caring about the welfare of that child above all else. By making the care of your child the most important thing in your life. Many adults seem to feel that children exist to serve the needs of adults, that children are to be seen not heard, that children are the property of their parents. But I assure you that those views are false. They are lies. No human being may own another. Your primary job as a parent is to serve the needs of your child, not to force your child to serve your needs. If you cannot accept that, then don't have kids.
So, what's going wrong? Two words: No Love. And without love, all relationships fail, even (especially!) parent-child relationships.
Whereas most of this essay is addressed to the general public, this section is an open letter from me, Robbie Hatley, to all the parents in the world.
I hear you parents thinking as you read this, "Surely he's not going to tell me how to raise my own kids, is he?" Yes, I am. You don't like that, do you? Too damn bad. Get over it. Then continue reading my essay. You may find some helpful things here, believe it or not.
So, how does one raise kids? What is the "right" way to do this? After several decades of experience (as a child) and observation (as an adult), I have come to know the answer to that question rather well. Let me present my own guidelines -- "Robbie Hatley's Guide To Raising Kids", if you will -- point by point:
- Love your child! If you do not love children, don't have them. And if you already have children, but don't love them, give them up for adoption immediately. For without Love, all parent-child relationships end in disaster.
- Tell your child you love him/her, and do it often! Don't take it for granted that the child knows. Children need constant reassurance on this.
- Be physically affectionate to your child! There is no better way to say "I Love you!" than a nice warm cuddle. Even a teenager needs hugs and kisses and cuddles. And yes, this applies to boys as well as girls. I have observed that many men are reluctant to be affectionate with their sons, fearing that affection will turn them into sissies. But you know what else I have observed? Those boys who are treated with Love, gentleness, and cuddles tend to be physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger, more self-confidant, more courageous, more assertive, more athletic, more masculine, than boys who are treated harshly. As is often the case, the truth of this matter is the exact opposite of popular opinion. Want to turn your son into a "sissy"? Beat him up. Want to turn him into a "real man"? Hug him and kiss him. Counterintuitive for many of you, I know, but none-the-less true.
- Treat your child as a real human being! Yes, children are "real people". Humans from age 0 to age 130 are all "real people". An unborn fetus, a tiny baby, a toddler, and a teenager, are all just as "human" as you are. Adults tend to forget that. How many times have you heard the phrase "kids and pets", lumping the two together as if they were two examples of lower, sub-human life forms? This is a grave mistake. Children are not pets! Children are just as human, and just as worthy of respect, as adults.
- Respect your child! As soon as you start being disrespectful to your child, you have lost the Love that must drive the relationship. Don't get into the pitfall of thinking that you deserve the respect of your child. No such thing is true! Your child owes you nothing. Remember, you were the one who forced existence onto your child by conceiving him or her in the first place. Having made that choice for your child, it is you who owes you child respect, not vice versa. A child will give you respect only if you earn it. And the only way to earn that respect is by first respecting the child.
- Listen to your child's concerns, rather than just laying down the law and saying "don't talk back!" Your child feels all the same feelings and desires and dreams and aspirations and Loves and hates and fears and worries and anxieties as you do, only much more intensely, because unlike an adult, your child has not yet learned to deal with these feelings, and needs your guidance. So listen carefully to your child's concerns and try to give realistic advice. You would do as much for an adult friend, wouldn't you? But your children need an ear to bend much more than adults do. So if you want to raise happy, healthy kids (and maintain a strong parent-child relationship), always be there for them when they need your guidance.
- Tell the truth! Always tell your children the whole truth about everything, and never lie to them. No, not even "little white lies". Convincing yourself that your child cannot understand the truth is no excuse; tell the truth anyway. Understanding is not required; truth is. Only if you are unflaggingly honest with your children will they continue to believe you when you speak to them. If you prove yourself to be a liar, your kids won't believe you or take your advice or obey your commands. So if you want to be taken seriously by your kids, always tell the truth.
- Do not verbally abuse your children! Don't call your kids dirty names or belittle them or tell them how stupid or worthless you think they are. Such verbal abuse severely harms children, because children do not have the emotional "hardness" of adults. An insult that an adult would ignore as harmless causes excruciating pain to a child. Saying things your kids don't like or don't agree with is OK, but being obnoxious or hurtful is not. If you must reproach or admonish a child, always do it gently rather than harshly.
- Do not physically abuse your children! Do not beat your kids, or use them as punching bags to vent your wrath, or rape them, or torture them, or murder them. Do you think this goes without saying? No, it does not. Many, many parents do these horrible things to their kids every day. If you are one of them, give your children up for adoption immediately, then seek professional help from a good psychologist or psychiatrist. Do not attempt to care for children again unless and until you can control your temper. And if you cannot force yourself to stop abusing children, do the world a favor and commit suicide.
- Allow your child some contact with humanity! Do not meddle unnecessarily in your child's relationships with other people; children need to learn how to relate socially with people of various genders, ages, races, and walks of life, so it is unwise to try to isolate them from other people, unless absolutely necessary.
- Restrict your child's contact with humanity! Does this contradict the above paragraph? No, it doesn't. In today's dangerous world, you do need to keep track of who your child communicates with. This is especially true of the Internet. Parentally controls and blocking are a good thing, especially with kids under about 15. Such kids are sometimes preyed-on by dangerous adults, so it's a good idea to restrict and monitor their communications.
- Respect your child's privacy! Do not unnecessarily meddle with your kids' private property, diaries, correspondence, computer files, and the like. You wouldn't allow your kids to do that to you, so why do you think it's OK to violate their privacy that way? This is part of "treating children like real human beings". Your children are not your prisoners, so don't treat them as if they were.
- When necessary, violate your child's privacy! Does this contradict the above paragraph? Yes, it does; but unfortunately, in today's dangerous world, it is sometimes necessary to see what you child's been up to, especially if you see evidence that your kid is getting into drugs, or is hanging out with the wrong crowd, or has been solicited by a suspicious adult. In cases like that, by all means be sneaky. Sneak, pry, find out what's happening, and intervene as necessary to safeguard your child.
- Allow your child some self determination! As your child grows older, give hir more and more control over hir own life. The only way kids learn how to make decisions is by making them. Will they make some wrong decisions? Of course they will. That's how they learn. That's how they grow up. That's how they eventually cease being a child.
I could go on for many more pages with detailed advice, but what would be the point? My intent here is to address the larger issues: Love, caring, respect. Those are the important things to give your children. In the end, it all boils down to Love. The details tend to take care of themselves, but no parent-child relationship can succeed without Love.
Look To The Future
The destiny of the human race is in the hands of those who tend the children of today. Be kind to the young, and they will flourish, becoming tomorrow's doctors, scientists, engineers, poets, artists, musicians, visionaries, and leaders. But treat them badly, and they will become tomorrow's suicide victims, drug addicts, drunks, thieves, gangsters, rapists, armed robbers, and murderers.
Both good and evil are "contagious". Both Love and hate leave their marks on people. And the marks you leave on the souls of the children in your life will be determined by the Love or the hate you give to them. Love heals; hate maims. As you sew, so shall you reap.
This applies not just to parents, either, but to anyone who has contact with children. As a parent, teacher, big brother, counselor, scoutmaster, doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, neighbor, mentor, Internet pen pal, etc., you have an enormous responsibility. Do right by the children, and you will safeguard the future of the human race. Do badly by them, and you will assure a future which is evil. The choice is yours.