Archive for Thursday, July 10, 2003

Culture clash

In some ways, it’s a long way from Kansas to Texas

July 10, 2003

Visiting "kin" at a family reunion on my recent visit to the great state of Texas during the Fourth of July weekend reminded me again of the difference between that state and Kansas. Not only in geography (we have the lovely rolling hills in the Flint Hills, while most of what I saw in the Dallas area reminded me of an old cowboy film - scruffy land and horse ranches), but also that the people are friendly -- to a point -- and the pace seems more relaxed, except for Dallas traffic. And the temperature was even more moderate than here in Kansas.
It was the culture that seemed so different. Watching home movies of young high school-age girls competing in dance competitions seemed appropriate and fun. However, when the really little girls, complete in make up and expensive costumes, were brought out to perform (reminiscent of little JonBenet Ramsey) I was amazed that this custom was so prevalent and acceptable.
One little girl was crying when she was carried onto the stage, but performed obediently as soon as the music started. I observed a similar kind of thing in a parade in Arkansas several years ago when little girls reigned on parade floats competing in local beauty pageants.
This seems, in my opinion, to be robbing children of their childhood and forcing them into competition at an early age, the parents hoping for a "star" in the family.
In a recent conversation with my nephew, he commented that his mother didn't care what he was up to in the summer. It was time to play. As he said, "If I wanted to stand on my head, fine, but let's not turn it into a competition."
The same could be said of the "star" athletes who compete so early in life, e.g. Tiger Woods and many of the young tennis players.
Perhaps this is not a new phenomenon - turning children into adults at an early age. After all, we had Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor, who all speak of strange childhoods being brought up in the spotlight and removed from reality. With the exception of Shirley Temple, who grew up and led a seemingly "normal life," all of these movie stars struggled with difficult problems in adulthood.
So let's put the little girls back in appropriate outfits and let them dig in the sand or play Barbie's or soccer or baseball with their friends. Most importantly, let's let kids just be kids for a while, because adulthood lasts such a long time.

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