“Covid Baby” is a term my wife used recently to describe our daughter. She just turned two, and since it’s been more than a year of “two weeks to flatten the curve,” she’s lived a life that that is very different from my son when he was the same age.
We noticed this when we recently travelled to Texas. She won’t sit for long at a table in a restaurant without getting bored and wanting to get up and move, even if she has toys. She doesn’t know what to do at a supermarket or a mall. She doesn’t like to ride in a cart, and she doesn’t want to hold hands or stay close to mom or dad. She gets nervous around crowds.
My son, by contrast, went to restaurants all the time at the same age (we liked eating out – as an aside, “lockdowns” have improved our waistlines and fattened our wallets) and he was always with me going to any store.
I can imagine some people reading this might have a reaction along the lines of, “See? Look how bad the lockdowns are.! Kids don’t know how to act!” Maybe those same people have similar reactions about kids crying during online instruction or having to endure dystopian spread-out bubble classes. If that’s you, I urge you to pause for a moment and consider this:
The normal is not really normal or natural.
There is nothing natural, given the history of humanity, about the restaurant experience. There is nothing “normal” about going to a giant store and pushing around a plastic cart which allows you to simply collect food. Our ancestors grew their food or traded for it piecemeal. They didn’t file into buildings in an orderly manner and wait to trade their fiat currency for a meal made especially for them. Supermarkets and restaurants are novel experiences of the modern age, and therefore there is nothing “wrong” with a child being ill-adjusted to them.
Likewise, there is little room for chastising parents who bring electronics to make things like car rides, long lines, or any other modern act that requires waiting around more bearable for themselves of their offspring. There is nothing in our history that should make sitting strapped at five places into a tight-fitting seat for hours at a time a bearable or normal experience. In fact, if you take a step back, such things could be deemed to be torture in other contexts, yet there is an expectation that children should be able to deal with such “normalcies” without losing emotional regulation. So yes, tablets are not “good” for children, but neither is making them wait in one place without moving for long periods of time.
You can extend that to school. A six-year-old is not a creature made to sit still in a little workstation for six or seven hours a day, with a few minutes of “socialization” during “recess” to make the experience bearable. Adding plastic barriers between kids, or making them stand in circles to play during recess only reveals that the whole thing is unnatural and dystopian, not just the last little bits.
I think about this when someone says that homeschooled children are “weird.” Why? Because they do not adhere to the authority-centered socialization rituals of public school? Because they don’t internalize the edicts of institutions even when outside those institutions? Because their social behaviors are learned absent the institution – that they learn how to be social by interacting only with other children and with adults who actually care for them?
Very few people these days stop and consider that it is modernity itself which is weird. It is the institutionalized child who is has been molded into strange shapes, not his peers who have been educated outside of the institutions of the modern state. Surely, these people would think a medieval man to be strange and superstitious, even though exemplifies the majority of human experience with his attitudes and beliefs.
Behaviors certainly can be learned. Discipline can be fostered in children – they can be taught to act a certain way in certain situations and to be patient. But as we do this, remember that the child who does not easily fit into such molds is not “broken,” nor has he been victimized by being spared exposure to modern behavioral modalities.
Abba Anthony said, “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us.'”
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