There was something in this past week's news that I found troubling . . . over and over we saw the clip of the little boy who walked up onto the stage while the Pope was making a formal address to a large audience. The repeated rebroadcast by the networks said 'Oh, isn't this cute!' Well true, it is a cute image for the cameras, but it raises questions for me: Where was the mother or caregiver? How did he get that far on his own? Why was the child allowed to dictate that situation and no parent intervene? Where was adult judgement to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior? Yes, Jesus said, "let the little children come unto me"--and if the Pope were seated at an informal gathering and a child ran up and hugged him, that indeed would be heartwarming and a reflection of the Bible text . . . but in this case: a formal address to a large audience with microphones and TV cameras and this child roaming unrestrained was inappropriate and the parents are culpable. Imagine every parent there with a child below the age of 6 allowing their 'little darling' to freely run onstage and do nothing to discourage him/her, the result would be total disruption of the proceedings.
This incident provided a flashback to the idea that emerged somewhere about 40 years ago that suggested we let our children 'raise themselves', do nothing to control their 'free spirit'--just protect them from harm. Perhaps in a small primitive village that would be OK, but it does not fit in a complex pluralistic society striving to gain a balance that maintains order yet allows for individual freedom. We are not born knowing this, we learn how to be free without infringing on the freedom of others slowly. It is the parental job to teach how that can work. Behavior that may be appropriate in one situation is out-of-order in another. Children don't know that, that is why parents are charged with governing them for some 18 or so years. Animal young live under care only briefly because their lives are guided by instincts--human young require adult guidance for survival and they must gradually learn how to live in society and what it means to become 'civilized' (evidence of moral and intellectual advancement). Unfortunately the popularity of that concept of unrestrained childhood is showing up in the erosion of respect and self-restraint that plagues our modern world.
Yes, the image of a little kid hugging the Pope may be cute, but parents, please you need to teach your little ones behavior that is right for one situation may not be so for another--that's your job!