Thursday, March 08, 2001

Violent kids


Recruiting relentless adult team

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        My parents, I am sorry to report, were always sticking their noses into my personal business.

        My mother couldn't simply put clean underwear in my dresser drawer. She would use this as an excuse to paw around looking for cigarettes.

        They read my mail. “I have fed that boy a dozen times,” my mother would say. “I consider him a mutual friend.” My father intercepted information I had requested on a miracle breast-enlarger. He not only told me I couldn't send away for one, even if I used my own birthday money, he had the nerve to tell me I looked “just fine” the way I was.

        It is a wonder I survived childhood in that house.

In cahoots

        Here's another thing. They were in league with other parents, who were just as bad. And they were all in cahoots with our teachers. To me, it looked as if all you had to do to qualify for their team was to be old.

        And nosy.

        I know what my mother and father would have said about the boy who took a gun to school this week and killed two people and injured 13 others: “Where were his parents?”

        That's a fairly simple question to answer. Like half the parents in this country, they were divorced. The mother lives in South Carolina. The boy lived with his father in California.

        The mother of Charles Andrew “Andy” Williams told police he is a normal, good-natured teen-ager. She was shocked to learn that he shot 15 people Monday. “I never saw any real moodiness there, other than teen-age stuff, and then you'd just change the subject and he was fine,” she told a reporter from the New York Times.

        She saw Andy for two weeks at Christmastime and spoke with him by telephone earlier this year. So, she wasn't around to snoop in his underwear drawer. That's a fact. And it's not simple. And it didn't happen overnight.

Wired and weird

        We are connected to each other by e-mail and telephones and chat rooms. We are just not connected at the dinner table. Ed, Edd and Eddie are the bedtime storytellers. Jerry Springer is the After-School Special. There are serial-killer trading cards.

        Children are not responsible for any of these things. And they are not the enemy.

        Actress Meryl Streep says she chooses roles based on whether the project will enhance or degrade the world in which her children live. Procter & Gamble's Bob Wehling has formed a consortium of 45 big companies trying to do the same thing with their advertising.

        “We will be relentless in our efforts to look for and sponsor more options for families,” Mr. Wehling said.

        Relentless. I like that.

        I hope the Million Moms looking for ways to keep guns out of the hands of children continue to be relentless. And I hope teachers do everything in their power to keep another school from becoming a shooting gallery. I hope parents snoop. And say no whenever they need to.

        Adults still run the television networks, which bring thousands of hours of violence into our homes every year. Adults still control the movie studios, which bring us visions of one man eating another man's brains. Adults at record companies provide marketing and distribution expertise for Eminem's exercises in ugliness.

        Parents should not allow their kids to watch or listen to such poison, but they could use some help. They could use more adults on their team.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.

       



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