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Generation that is

Julia Fabian | Fulcrum Staff

“I KILLED YOUR wife!” Those were the first words I heard as I stepped out of my house a few days ago. The sad part about this is that those words came from the mouth of my neighbour’s five-year-old son, as he held another boy by the throat. The saddest part about this is the fact that such a phrase, uttered with a fury you wouldn’t expect from a kindergartener, barely makes me blink anymore. Ever since I moved into my condo in June, witnessing such altercations between children has been a daily occurrence.

They hit each other with sticks. They call each other names I can’t write in this paper. They all carry toy guns, even the toddler whose plastic shotgun drags on the ground because it’s a good six inches taller than he is. They never seem to sleep,  made evident by their screams of “F***ing piece of shit” wafting through my bedroom window with the crickets’ chirps at 1 a.m. and the birds’ at 6. They throw garbage into our backyard and play on my roommate’s truck like it was parked there for their personal use. The older siblings smoke pot and talk about things that make me never want to leave this house after dark.

Manners? Hmm, not sure where those went. Childish innocence? Hah! Think of thugs wearing Pull-Ups. Parent supervision? Tossed aside like the hundreds of cigarette butts I find on my front lawn—my neighbour’s personal ashtray, apparently. Cue the mother, who occasionally makes an appearance to sit and smoke and watch indifferently as her kids mould their future gang selves. Then she goes back inside, washing her hands of it. News flash: it’s okay for me to shake my head and retreat to the silence of my house. It is not okay for a parent to.

Is it just me or is there some kind of unspoken rule that goes something like, if you have children, you actually raise those children? If otherwise, the implications for the future are mind-blowing. These are the fresh faces of the next generation, the next batch of teachers, doctors, bus drivers, and politicians. But perhaps most shocking is what a phrase like “I killed your wife” says about the kind of husbands these boys will be in 20 years. The boyfriends they will be in 10 or 15.

The girls are not perfect either, but in this particular neighbourhood they seem to have drawn the short straw. When my roommate tells me that he once saw from his truck window four or five boys chasing a little girl, some running in a manner to which the verb “toddle” would still very much apply, all wielding sticks of some form, I feel a sick sense of terror. A cold fear, the kind of fear I feel when something that is deeply disturbing is also largely out of my control.

If I, one person in one area of one neighbourhood of one city, see and hear such things so often, what does that say about the rest of the world? The prognosis is not good.

I want to save the environment, so I recycle. I pick up after my dog because I hate when people get the wrong idea about pet owners. If I ever have a kid, I will make sure that, to the best of my abilities, that kid will be taught respect, decency, tolerance, and manners.

So is it too much to ask that every parent does the same?