Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy Birthday Toto

I just dropped my family off at a birthday party for a little girl who just turned two. Her family is from Kenya and they call her by the nickname "Toto", meaning "Little Girl" in Swahili.

Toto's older brother is my son's best friend, and not quite a year older.

I was thinking about them because of a couple of recent observations on parenting I've made.

One was brought up by the kids' mother when theirs and ours were playing together. My boy was doing something that I thought might get him hurt, but not dangerously so, so I warned him.


I warned him again. Same result - or lack thereof.

So I said, "OK son, if you've got to find out for yourself, go ahead."

His friend's mother laughed and said, "Steve, you're really like an African father."

Second observation. My son and his best friend have their occasional falling-outs and sometimes the results are six-year-old high drama, i.e they shout, hit and have been known to throw things at each other.

I've noticed that more and more, the reaction of American parents is often something like, "Oh my God we've got to do an intervention!" (Think that's an exaggeration? Think again, if it is it's only a slight one.)

His friend's father just shrugs and says, "Boys fight."

Of course boys fight. The way we handle it is to ground the kids for a while. Fifteen minutes later they're crying, "I miss my friend!"

I have encountered pacifist parents who tell their kids that when another kid hits them, they should walk away. This, as you might expect, tends to make the kids into targets.

But I've noticed that it also makes them into bullies.

If kids are told to "turn the other cheek" they grow up expecting that when they are the aggressors, their victims should not fight back. And when they do, the little tykes get indignant.

A wise parent once observed that boys who grow up without a model of real manhood do not become wimps - they become thugs.

Well perhaps they become both wimps and thugs, the two are not incompatible. Wimps when alone, thugs when with a gang.

I'm going to have a lot more to say about this in future posts. In particular I'm going to develop three threads:

1) "As below, so above" (to invert the ancient hermetic saying.) The behavior of thug nations is accurately modeled by the behavior of thug individuals and gangs - as is the way of dealing with them.

2) There are two views of taming human nature at war in our culture, the traditional Judeo-Christian; and the modern Marxist/environmentalist. The former stresses teaching self-control over an inherited and unchanging human nature, the latter the idea of changing what they regard as an infinitely plastic human nature by manipulating the formative environment.

3) The essence of true manhood has never been better expressed in English than by Raymond Chandler. In Phillip Marlow's last adventure, a woman asks him, "How can a man who is so tough, be so gentle?"

He replies, "If I weren't tough, I wouldn't be alive. If I couldn't be gentle, I wouldn't deserve to be alive."

Happy birthday Toto, and I hope you'll always have guys like your big brother and big buddy around.

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