Too young to be 'grown'
My robins have hatched and fledged quietly with no fuss. Yesterday, all the babies but one were sitting on the glider on my front porch waiting expectantly with beaks agape for someone to feed them. One last late guest was in the nest. By night, the young birds had left, including the one still home. They are right now sitting in my apple tree not yet realizing they're supposed to be grown, chasing their parents and begging for handouts. Thus nature proves my point; leaving the nest is never easy and looking for parental aid continues even after you can fly on your own.
So also are our children. Those in the suburbs don't leave entirely, sometimes forever. They go to school, paid for by parents, drive cars they didn't buy, and take expensive vacations on daddy's dollar.
While in The Hill, I hear the constant cry of "he's grown. He is grown." He/she is only 15 or 16 at that time and often times never really gets to grow up.
Muriel Barbery says in her book, "The Elegance of the Hedgehog":
"Teenagers think they're adults when, in fact, they're imitating adults who never really made it out into adulthood and who are running away from life. A teenager who pretends to be an adult is still a teenager. If you imagine that getting high at a party and sleeping around is going to propel you into state of full adulthood, it's like thinking that dressing up like a space alien is going to make you a space alien. It's a really weird way of looking at life to want to become an adult by imitating everything that is most catastrophic about adulthood."
Except, of course, many of our kids have gone way beyond using drugs and having casual sex and into serious violence and promiscuity. They want to show the adults how life is supposed to be, just like an MTV video! When you're a street orphan, real role models are scarce.
I look across at my next door neighbors and they are like my baby robins, at 30 still flapping their wings and looking for aid. And yes, it comes -- almost daily. This young couple has a 1-year-old child and grandma takes baby every day so mom can go to work. Granny visits at least three times a week to clean house and leave behind home-cooked meals. This weekend, grandpa was there to help in putting a new roof on the garage.
There is definitely a huge cultural divide here. Role reversals on The Hill are common, mothers are asking for money from children. Saying things like, "Maybe if you went back to hustling, there would be more money. I am your mother, after all." Coming to adulthood at too early an age works for no one. Nobody grows up really, and if as a child you yourself have never been nurtured, you yourself have no knowledge of how to nurture your own child. So we have half-fledged robins, looking for handouts from parents who are worn out from life and who could use a hand-up themselves.
And yet, sometimes people evade these oversimplified cliches, and not only grow but thrive. I have two young moms who have just graduated from two different programs. One from SCCC with an associate's degree in business and another from Bryant and Stratton with a degree in medical office programming. Both want to continue school and both are decent young women struggling in poverty but not hopelessness and are trying to take control of their own destiny and to face motherhood with equanimity and joy. I view them with trepidation and as I tell them how proud I am of them, I still cannot offer them what they really need. A well-paying job coupled with medical benefits and child care.
And yes, there are fathers involved. One working as a nursing assistant as he struggles to finish nursing school and the other working at a home gardening center. Hard physical labor that pays little. And yes, all come to QUEST and volunteer, and one cooks once a week, and it seems as if I've known them forever. And yet, compare their lives to my next-door neighbors': two new cars, their own home, and inter-familial support that can make the difference between success and failure. And it all happens because of an accident of birth, a simple role of the dice. Is it fate or lady luck? This question, gentle reader, should make you very uncomfortable. At least I hope it does.
And while we're at it, all those mega-churches who quote the Bible and yet push individual wealth should remember this little gem:
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to pass through the gates of Heaven."
And then there is the horrifying street violence of last Friday. A father and his son pulled off the porch of a relative and beaten by a group of teenage thugs with baseball bats and bricks while a crowd gathered and shouted encouragement. Police were called, but the only real witnesses were neighbors, because by the time the cops arrived, it was over. Everyone was gone but the two victims. Maybe it would be a good idea to find out (as they did in Albany with an ambulance) just how long it took between the call and their subsequent arrival. As of now, only one person has been arrested. and the followup will probably be people screaming in letters to the editor, "We really don't have a violent school [this incident happened right on a school street -- The Plaza, Phoenix Avenue], this was an isolated happening. And the state needs to stop picking on Schenectady and take us off the list of violent schools."
And this brings me back yet again to that overused and much abused word: respect. Children attack adults because, take a deep breath now, "You dissed me. You dissed me in front of my friends and the only way to save my face is to beat the crap out of you. Even if I get arrested and go to jail, it doesn't matter, I am NO PUNK." Remember when punk meant exactly what this person is? A little thug who fit in nowhere and had a huge chip on his/her shoulder, lived a life of small-time crime and beat people up! Maybe we should let people know how the word used to be descriptive of what they in fact are doing now. Look it up in the dictionary. Write a paper on it for English class, and while you're at it, throw in the Eastern philosophy on the etymology of the word "respect."
"Poverty is a reaper: It harvests everything inside us that might have made us capable of social intercourse with others, and leaves us empty, purged of feeling, so that we may endure all the darkness of the present day."
-- Muriel Barbery
-- P.S. EZ Vince is popping up all over the city. His ads and innuendos are becoming more and more suggestive. One intrepid Gazette reporter actually called the phone number on the wall and EZ himself answered the phone. That's how easy (no pun intended) it is to speak to Vince. He says that he is using the walls of the city as his private MySpace page. "Just looking for some amazing relationships, that's all." What do you think?