Thursday, June 08, 2006

Middle of the Night Rambles

I can't sleep right now, so I would thought I would try to blog it off.

I just had a long conversation with an old friend. We used to work together with a local cadet unit. We updated each other about our lives and with the lives of other people from the unit with which we've kept in touch.

The conversation lasted about 90 minutes, and consisted of your typical update of friends who have not spoken in a few years. So and so got married, so and so broke up/separated/divorced, and so and so got someone knocked up. So and so moved to here and there, so and so got sick, and so and so hasn’t changed.

Life truly has its ups and downs. I really like keeping in touch with old friends and having a history and following each others’ lives as they develop, expand.

Our conversation kept my mind spinning hours after we got off the phone. I tried to Stargate it off, but after 2 episodes I still am not tired.

What I keep thinking about is why some people succeed and why some others stray off the path? As a sociology student I constantly think about the social factors affecting the issue.

I found out upsetting news of some old friends. Two of my cadets ended up becoming fathers. Normally fatherhood is a celebratory occasion, this also being that Father’s Day is soon upon us. But this is not too happy of an issue. It hurts. It hurts because I knew these cadets. They were under my command. I thought they had potential and would do great things. Not that becoming a father at 17 will stop you from doing great things. But life is just so much harder now. I’m picturing a really too young couple pushing a stroller down the street, or trying to get on the city bus or working a dead end job because you barely got to finish high school. It saddens me. I also learned that another cadet friend of mine got mixed up with the wrong crowd and chose not to see the light.

It reminds me of looking at that photo of a group of us in high school in grade 10. It was a great day in June, we all skipped class to enjoy the sunshine and laying on the grass, talking. The photo is of us posed arms around each other smiling as we gaze into the sun.

I don’ like to look at that photo anymore. I’ve lost touch with many, but get updates through some channels who’ve kept in touch or the ‘last I heard’ updates. One got knocked up and moved out of the house, messed up with drugs too. Another likely didn’t finish high school either and last I heard is ‘gone’ not necessarily with drugs, but mental issues.

Although these two individuals were not in cadets, they had similar situations. They got mixed up with the wrong crowd, or they made a large error in judgement.

Is their life over?

No.

But.

It’s just tough and sad. And although you can’t save them all you want to and you try to figure out along the way what went wrong. Was there something you could have done more? Should have I made a phone call? Was is possible to save them?

This mental beat up isn’t healthy of course. But I’m glad my old friend has the passion, drive and desire to do something positive for youth. She’s trying to start up her own business with creating a fantastic program for these types of youths at risk. I just hope her heart doesn’t break where she comes across one that she cannot save.

Why is it that cadets attracts kids that have very screwed up family lives? Now this isn’t always the case of course. But man, do we get some screwed up kids. It’s sad really.

I remember when I went to camp in 2000 and I started a boundary breakers session with my fellow tent mates. Boundary Breakers is an activity where there are only two rules. One, whatever is said must never leave the circle and two, you may pass at any question. You sit in a circle and start off with easy questions: “What’s your favourite colour and why?” or “If you could be any animal what would it be?”. Later once you’ve done a few ice breakers you can go onto more serious questions: “When was the last time you cried” or “What do you dislike the most about your parents.

So I lead one of these with my tent mates and it turns out I was the odd kid out. I was the weirdo. I was the screwed up one because I was too perfect. Of my 9 tent mates: 2 were raped, 2 had kids, 1 was abused, 2 were alcoholics or had alcoholics in their immediate family, 2 had cut themselves and the majority had divorced parents. Many cadet families are from broken families. Often parents bring their kids to cadets trying to instill some discipline in them. For others, is a youth program that is free.

I am very much for promoting the family. That’s one of the reasons that draws me to a right of centre political belief. Although it is unrealistic to expect everyone to fit into a cookie cutter of the family of two married parents and with their biological 1.7 kids and a dog, but in my experience and in my limited research are best. Thinking back of all the cadets I’ve experienced a great many who got caught up in the wrong path had parent issues. I don’t want to put their names here but I can think of them. Those that have excelled (who are in University now etc…) are often from two parent (never divorced) families.

This doesn’t mean that a two parent family means you’re going to have good kids and that if you’re a single parent or if you divorce that you’re going to screw up your kids. However, as a sociologist I look at the research and evidence. Of course my sample of comparing cadet famillies is biased but it’s just an interesting observation.

I have done a little research on the topic. I did a paper in OAC Soc about cohabitation and divorce and there were studies that I read that shocked me with the impact your parent’s relationship has in determining your life long relationships.

It just seemed that life was simpler when divorce never happened and two parent families were expected. Unfortunately this is the 21st century. Divorce is expected of half of marriages, there are no more family norms (to the point where if you're parents have been married for more than 20 years it's shocking and even abnormal).

Sure when we had 2 parent (never divorced) families life may have seemed simpler. But were people happier? If divorce was taboo, you were stuck--or as a feminist would refer to it as trapped--in a marriage. And so women now have roles outside the kitchen. They are educated and "liberated". In the late 20th and early 21st century Canada has embraced "flexible" families to ensure everyone can be included and happy.

The question is,

Are we happier now?

Drugs and violence is plaguing our cities which affects our neighbourhoods, or schools, our families. Where do drugs and violence usually stem from? Broken homes. Homes that had violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, living in a dangerous (rough) low income neighbourhood, and peer influence to make trouble or even join a gang. Often families in low income housing are 'kids' who've just had a baby, or a single parent who's trying desperately to make ends meet.

Let's not follow Jack Layton or Hilary Clinton and creating a "village". To solve this chronic problem is to not put Band-Aids (I mean, Adhesive Bandages) on the issue by putting all the money on social issues, social nets.

Let's go to the source. Let's rescue, heal, help the family structure. It's clear that kids who get pregnant at 15 will need help. But let's stop putting condoms bathrooms and talk more about abstinence (if that is possible in our sex obsessed culture) and more about the importance of families.

Let's stop putting money in creating a childcare system so that strangers or "professionals" can raise your children, but help parents who want to stay home make that economically possible. Someone remind me when it became the government's responsibility to raise our kids? It makes more sense to help parents raise their children.

Why is divorce so easy to do? Let's strengthen adult relationships/marriage. Research has proven (sorry it's 3am, no links) that 2 parent (non step)families are best, that cohabitating families do not have the solid bond that marriage provides. Research has also proven that first marriages are the most likely to work out. If you divorce in your first marriage and remarry, you're even more likely to divorce and your marriage is likely to last shorter than the first. Ross Gellar anyone?

Will all families "fall victim" to what I am fortelling? Of course not, there are exceptions to all. However. As a sociologist/sociology student there is ALWAYS a pattern.

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