by Frank Jovine
- First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
- We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitch hiking.
- As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a van – loose – was always great fun.
- We drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle.
- We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
- We ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because……WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!
- We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
- We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
- We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no text messaging, no Computer’s, no Internet or Internet chat rooms……….WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
- We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
- We played with worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
- Made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it poke eyes out, it never happened.
- We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
After posting this, I thought a lot about how differently children are raised today. From an outsider's point of view, it's a very unhealthy mix of over-protection and neglect, of flexible rules and morally acceptable "time-outs." Where every stranger is a danger and materialism is a means to assuage the guilt of not spending enough time. Today spoiling your child means loving your child. Meanwhile we feed children daily doses of prescribed drugs and televised violence and then we are deeply shocked when they go on a shooting sprees. We wonder why they turn out like Lohan. We are morally appalled by teen suicide and outraged by anti-social behavior and psychotic episodes.
In the late sixties, before the days of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, they just called it hyperactivity- my very own syndrome. My elementary school teacher, Mrs. Bodine- with a kind of subtle pressure, I assume- warned my mother and gave her the name of a friendly doctor who had the answer in the form of little yellow pills. And so I'd sit, dulled by my Ritalin pills, but extremely quiet and manageable. (Malleable is perhaps a better word.) I started out taking them but later only pretended to. After all, I wanted to be conscious while I was alive.
Imagine my surprise when only a few years later, dark-suited guests came to our classroom with a large ominous suitcase displaying examples (phony) of street drugs and gave us a lecture on the dangers of drug abuse. Scary preaching and all of it hypocritical in the extreme.
Later, scientists began to question the wisdom of giving psychoactive drugs to children. The very idea of "informed consent" – the basic right of every patient to be provided with information about his illness and treatment and to approve of this course of action- is turned on its head when drugs are prescribed with the consent of parents and the support of educators. In the case of Ritalin, the potential side effects often seemed worse than the problem.
"Ritalin and amphetamine have almost identical adverse effects on the brain, mind and behavior, including the production of drug-induced behavioral disorders, psychosis, mania, drug abuse, and addiction....Ritalin can cause permanent neurological tics including Tourette's syndrome......Withdrawal from Ritalin can cause emotional suffering, including depression, exhaustion, and suicide. This can make children seem psychiatrically disturbed and lead mistakenly to increased doses of medication." Vital Information About Ritalin, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder and the Politics Behind the ADHD/Ritalin Movement Summarized from Talking Back to Ritalin by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
Some doctors even questioned the existence of the disorder itself. For more information check this PBS Frontline article (Here)
Class action lawsuits have been filed in Texas, California and New Jersey charging Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, maker of Ritalin, with conspiracy to create the psychiatric disorder known as ADHD in order to fuel the market for their product. http://www.shirleys-wellness-cafe.com/ritalin.htm#lawsuit
And yet, the use of Ritalin has continued to rise. Check the graph. The mindset seems to be: Regardless of the consequences in the long term, expediency requires us to solve this problem now. Take this pill and go to your room.
My sister's boy was given a monstrously large and expensive swing-set to play with and then not allowed to go outside. It was too cold or too hot. And Mommy was too busy. (My own mother would scream about us running in and out all the time. "The air conditioner is running!" Her preference was probably more inclined to "OUT!")
During my visit, my wife and I took the little boy to the water park- one of the happiest days I spent with him- and we burned up so much energy. He was given clearly defined rules, and was carefully supervised (without any multi-tasking) and he seemed to do just fine. (He did have to be told not to growl at the other children once.) Although I had promised his mother not to, we both went down the adult slide together as a team- my arms around him like a million dollar package. When I got to the bottom- with a splash- I looked around and he was gone! I could see the top of his head about 5 inches below the surface. With my heart pounding, I grabbed his arm and hoisted him in the air like a catfish. Perfectly unfazed, he begged for another time but I wasn't quite sure if I could stand that kind of shock again.
But when I was a child, I recall spending every day of summer, climbing aboard a school bus (what an exquisite novelty) and going to the local pool… alone. No parent necessary, thank you. There were lifeguards and staff who were always paying attention. There were always adults around to make sure nothing tragic happened. Today who would trust their children's life to a stranger? A stranger could be the problem. As far as the staff, would they be chatting away or texting at that one crucial moment instead of doing their jobs? Would they be watching TV or socializing or networking? Too many distractions. Too many children. Perhaps it's our society with the Attention Deficient Disorder.
More importantly, people have somehow forgotten how much energy children actually have, I think. We seem to expect them to stay cooped up inside all day, watching TV or playing games. That's a poor substitute for the kind of adventures we used to have in our neighborhood. Why, we visited other planets from our very own spaceship! (an abandoned Refrigerator box) Trying to bottle all that surplus energy and imagination with sedatives is merely inviting trouble. There is always a price to pay for expediency, especially when it comes to children.
When my nephew started bouncing off walls at the age of four, he became "a handful." And then, suddenly he's a problem child. Later he has "behavioral problems" and there's crisis in need of emergency treatment. And once a child gets labeled with some kind of mental illness- in whatever form- he becomes a "broken plate"- meaning, repairable with a lot of medication and therapy but never really quite the same as before.