Here's a story about six- and seven-year-olds sitting around watching the bloodbath when a pig's throat is cut. It's good for them, don't you know.
Monica Eng, the Chicago Tribune's food writer, apparently thought as much when she took her daughter, Miranda Zanca, 7, out to the farm to watch a pig slaughter--so she can appreciate where her food comes from. Judging from the amount and tone of responses to the story, the idea didn't go over too well with many of her readers.
But, what the hell, why shouldn't kids be exposed to the cruelties of life? The earlier the better, I always say.
Summer camp in Afghanistan? Spend a night in Englewood, hoping to catch sight of a drive-by shooting? That will make them appreciate how safe their own neighborhood is.
Remove warnings of "graphic violence" on movies, television programs and video games. Take them to the clinic to watch an abortion?
You get the idea. But apparently some folks don't.
What has made so many of us abandon the traditional role of a parent as a protector, and replaced it with a requirement that we become extreme reality coaches?
Rush them through childhood as fast as possible. Deprive them of the joys of childhood, plunge them into "reality" as fast as possible. Sex education in kindergarten. Maybe even pre-school. Steel them against the worst. Don't leave the fashioning of their nightmares to their own imaginations; we can do better by feeding them our own blood curdling experiences.
Yes, farm kids are not traumatized by the sight of a slaughter. But they've grown up with it. Kids from the city haven't. We're each vulnerable in our own way, and searching for ways to play on the vulnerability is, to my mind, cruel.
You can teach children where meat comes from without the violence. As a city kid, I can remember going to the old Techny farm near Northbrook, where the Divine Word religious order produced their own food. No one thought it necessary to show us an actual slaughter for us to learn how it works. Even as seven-year-olds we weren't stupid.
I'm not claiming to be the better parent, and I hope that Monica doesn't take this personally. But she has opened up for discussion one of the most important issues that I think this generation of parents faces: How do you introduce children to the realities of the world without traumatizing them?