Lessons in functional naivety?

2011-02-21 00:00

I WENT to a parents-children's talk at school last night. It was about how bad our children are.

Apparently they bow to peer pressure, constantly experiment with sex and drugs and rock 'n roll, attend rainbow parties, watch snuff movies, set up liaisons with paedophiles, choke themselves to orgasm, cut themselves for solace and post it all on Facebook, from Blackberries, which fry their brains, bought with R1 000 rand-a-month pocket money thrown at them by guilty, absent parents. My child was there. He had to be. It was compulsory, sort of.

Afterwards he asked me if it was true.

"What?" I ask.

"The R1 000 pocket money."

"That's Joburg."

"Near Heidelberg?"

"That's the place"

"But Andy comes from there," he said.

"Yup, he's probably lying face-down in the gutter with a coke syringe stuck in his butt as we speak."

"But dad I like coke"

"Cocaine, idiot child."

"The brown powder?"

"No that's H, moron. Coke is snorted, not melted"

"How do you know?"

"Wikipedia."

"That's just next door to

Internet porn, isn't it?"

"Sort of — it's across the way from chat rooms, where the

paedophiles hang out."

Now that he knows all this stuff and wonders what he's missing out on while feeling vaguely resentful that he doesn't get a grand a month pocket money, I wonder on the wisdom of early awareness. Quite frankly he didn't believe half of it. Perhaps that's dangerous naivety or is it just an innocent childhood, precious, pure and something to hold on to for as long as possible, before it's wrenched away by sordid adulthood.

Hauling out the horrors, and slapping him with the wet bits may make him more aware and safer, but I'm not sure.

Part of me wonders how I survived. When I first saw Cindy and her "friendly" German Shepherd, furtively passed around at tea break, I knew it wasn't the sort of thing I should be looking at or discussing with my parents. I also knew it wasn't normal or natural.

When a girl at a club offered me stuff, I politely accepted it, before slipping it back into her drink and watching the consequences. Who's wrong? I know I was, but she was playing with fire.

When a party got really out of hand I went to the toilet, slipped out the window and walked home, rather than risk the 17-year-old drunk driver with mom's car. I still do that, much to my friends' amazement.

I am still around and I attribute some of it to my bulldust-o-meter.

My parents seemed to teach me how to spot a phony and manage risk. I've never had a problem with being strange, so peer pressure is meaningless. I don't do Prada or Gucci or whatever, so greed tends to avoid me. I'm very curious, and so have experienced a great deal, but on the risky stuff I always let someone else go first. The army taught me that. I somehow know that I shouldn't do things I can't undo, so the hallucinogenics and irreversibles have avoided me, even tattoos.

And I am incredibly optimistic and naive. I'm up for most things, but being a Gemini, I have that second self that watches and whispers and plays devil's advocate and lets others rush in before I judge and decide and then proceed with due diligence.

I don't want my children to grow up scared. I don't want them to naively pet crocodiles either, but I want them to recognise deep water and sharp teeth, before they feel them.

I'm not sure how to do that, but I think that arming them with lethal knowledge in the name of self-defence is perhaps robbing them of their childhood and perhaps their soon-to-be-over-anyway joy.

Somehow I've got to work on their bulldust-o-meters.

• George Forder runs a training and events company (www.spin drift.co.za)

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