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07 August 2008

The Coddling of Children

**Spoiler Alert**

I just finished reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia collection in the order that they were intended to be read (opposed to the order in which they were written). I enjoyed the series, and I can certainly see how children and young adults enjoy these stories. As an educated woman, I can see the "preachiness" of the books, but I think I'm coming at them with a mind that is too critical. The fantasy and magic in the texts make them palatable and enjoyable for kids. And if they are reading AND getting a decent moral message, I'm happy. While reading, I find myself thinking about how these books would be received in today's world.

While there are many battle scenes in the series, there is remarkably little blood. It is rarely -- if ever -- mentioned but the battles are pretty hard core. I mean, after all, we are fighting against all forms of evil here! One cannot expect that to be neat and tidy. Of course, little blood makes these books more PC for the kiddies and their helicopter parents. This element of blood-less violence doesn't affect my feelings towards the book. I think that they are powerful with or without the blood. But, without the blood, we don't mind our kids reading them. Add the blood back in and they suddenly become questionable.

My biggest surprise came at the end of The Last Battle. Every central human character dies in this book. They are in a train wreck and ascend into heaven to be with Aslan. Of course, the train wreck is only mentioned in passing and there are no gory details, but EVERYONE DIES. How is that okay? I mean, I'm fine with it, but parents are always complaining about un-happy endings (Although ascending into heaven is a rather happy ending ... isn't it what we all aspire to?) and death in kiddie lit. How did this text, from arguably THE MOST celebrated juvenile series of all time, not receive all kinds of backlash for having the characters die? The ending works well with the themes and morality of the text, but they die. Weren't parent's pist about this?

Don't get me wrong. I think the ending is wonderful. I'm trying to figure out when we stopped letting kids experience life as it is and started fashioning a perfect little life with no sadness or struggle for them. I certainly wasn't coddled as a child, but I look at some of my relatives and their children live in a bubble! They can't be exposed to sadness or truth or reality (but they can watch horrifically violent TV and movies) because it will "traumatize" them or "scar" them. What? Does that mean that we are all scarred and in need of a good therapist? I think not. While I don't think that life should be a school comprised solely of hard knocks, I do believe that those experiences mold us and prepare us for the real tests of life. Wouldn't a parent prefer their child to gain some experience with death and mortality through well written literature so that when the reality of death and mortality actually appear (and no amount of coddling will prevent it from happening), the kids will be somewhat more prepared for it?

The coddling of our children has produced an entire generation of feeble forever-children who lack the independence and life skills to adequately fiction in the real world. I mean, young men are returning to their parents' hoes after graduation from college to live for up to 8 years (3 on average). These Man-Boys have no real life coping skills. Our girls still believe that Prince Charming is going to ride in on a white steed to take them away to a perfect little suburban castle. They make stupid decisions when they go out with their friends and then suffer the horrible consequences later. By coddling them, we've stripped them of essential skills.

But, they're better off innocent, right?
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