Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 1

The Ugly Duckling, the Tortoise, and the Early Bird, Part 1
Preventing HIV & Aids by Preparing & Investing in Your Future Early!

My wife has a big family. I don't. We are close to her sister's children and we recently had them stay with us and our kids. It’s always interesting seeing the changes kids go through. I often find kids lives way more interesting than adults. Recently I was talking with my nieces, ages 11 and 13, about their school and their hobbies, interests, etc. They said that their school didn't have a lot or resources i.e. basically no team sports sponsored by the school. I was amazed. These are two great girls - both smart and have a loving, big, family; and are tall. They like to be active. Their physical energy is not being utilized. Athletics in the school is very important. Keeping busy could keep them out of trouble and or proactive. I also realized that they are growing up and maybe will start to think about boys - God forbid. Bored and curious could move them into a negative direction - like engaging in sex too early.

A little later, my oldest niece told me she liked rap artist Nikki Minaj (like a lot of youth nowadays). Oh no, I think! Nikki Minaj's style is overly sexy and her image is provocative (just like Beyonce, Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna, Lady Ga Ga to name a few). Her fashion sense is over the top and accentuates her womanly assets (My niece also informed me that Nikki is heavily influenced by Japanese 'baby doll' fashion/culture….).

Am I concerned for my nieces? Yes! Why? Why wouldn't I be? Is this entertainer influencing my niece? Maybe. Is there anything else going on I don't know? Possibly. Will they tell me? Not sure? Mind you I don't see her a lot; which also is why I wanna know. But we have a good, usually open and honest relationship. Both girls are honest and friendly and we have many good conversations. This is good. Does this mean my niece or any other young person will be just like Nikki if they listen to her? No! However, as some of us know, if someone is bored with life or don't know what they are good at, then provocative entertainers/entertainment could influence the individual (and parts of communities) too behave and or think in unhealthy ways.

I think my nieces are “Neutral”. I define “Neutral” as being undecided for a period of time or until persuaded otherwise. “Neutral” kids have a sense of self but aren't necessarily driven by or have invested purpose or activity. They are also not necessarily “bad” or “problematic” kids (nihilistic, lost souls who have no empathy or care for life), however the danger in being too neutral is that peer pressure or outside sources (media, etc.) may influence them and they don't even know it, or these “forces that be” may move them into a negative direction. Now being confused, “Neutral” , or undecisive is characteristic of pre-teen behavior and that's normal.

How do I know this? I was once a kid, a teenager. I was rebellious but also an independent thinker but sometimes I fell into peer pressure. Coffee! At first taste it is nasty. Caffeine is a legal drug. It gives you energy. Starbucks are everywhere. You see everyone with a cup of joe in their hand walking down the street. Even teenagers. You say to yourself they look happy. At some point you might go in and try it. Eight years later, trying to keep up with young people, I am a habitual coffee drinker. See where I'm getting at? Cursing or curse words are provocative. It has somehow broken society down and made it’s way into popular culture and TV.

Books and moral messages have to compete with music videos, cartoons, commercials, movies, marketing everywhere. In my title I pull from various classic children's stories. The animals (in the stories) learn something as they grow. The animals or the stories symbolize innocence and a simpler life. All of the animals face a personal challenge. In the process, each animal determined, focused, and patient in the end get to their destination/goals! Or in the case of the early bird, pre-planning gets the bird ahead of the crowd. So each animal (in it’s story) knows it’s goals and purpose to achieve what they have to. The animal might not be popular or cool but in the long term they get to where they gotta go in life. Along the way, the tortoise doesn't get distracted or side-tracked by his ego or vanity or the fame of being “fast” like the rabbit does.

Often in our current society, innocence is lost and messages are blurred or confused because there's so much access. Access via the internet or TV or cable. It is hard for family; for a parent; for an uncle/dad like me to insulate and protect family; protect and empower our children. Fortunately my nieces are part of a tight, big family that can be protective and insulating (a lot of family activities and a lot of family near by). Family can help protect innocence and share empowering messages to our children.

Here's some good news and possible hope - Kaiser Family Foundation found in their 2003 study that:

Among teens aged 15-17 who have never had sexual intercourse, 94 percent said that concern about pregnancy influenced their decision to wait. Similar numbers said that concern about HIV/AIDS (92%), other STDs (92%) and feeling ‘too young’ (91%) contributed to their choice.

We want our children and our family to grow and become less “Neutral” - minded and become independent thinkers with a stronger sense of self-purpose and future-oriented thinking. I learned from my nieces that day, that I have to take the time to listen to them, hear what they are saying. I have to support their interests. Ask questions after I have heard what they have said. Be less critical and or look for the positive within but also be aware of the negatives. Be open to discuss or hear the provocative.

I want share with the children I know the skills needed to lead themselves into the right direction and ways they can protect themselves from being led into the wrong direction! Are you?

Lots of Love and Respect!
Amir Thornell
The Life Student

To Be Continued Friday, August 20th...

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