I’m under the weather today, so I’ve spent the afternoon watching the Spielberg version of War of the Worlds.
Every time I watch this movie, I end up losing interest in it because the kids are such totally messed-up people. Here they are, running for their lives, and they refuse to do what their father tells them to do. In fact, they are as difficult, obstructionist and consistently bratty as two kids can be.
I see this sort of thing in movies all the time. Parents will tell their kid or kids — movie families are always tiny — to “go home” because they are in a dangerous situation and the kid ignores them as if they hadn’t said a word. Maybe in the filmmaker’s world this is the way things are. Maybe in most of the world, this is the way things are.
But I homeschooled my kids and I can say without hesitation that I never saw this in my kids or the children of any of the other homeschooling families.
Take, for instance, the night of the May 3 tornado. This particular tornado went through Moore and South Oklahoma City on May 3, 1999. I woke up that morning aching all over. The cats got in grain barrels we used for storage in the garage and would not get out. (This was the first and only time they ever got in those barrels.) A friend of mine told me her chihuahua got under the sofa and wouldn’t come out.
I cooked supper while we watched the tornado form outside of Apache, Oklahoma on our television. I remember remarking, “We’ve been expecting you,” to the screen.
We watched that thing grow and stay down on the ground as it cut across the state and headed for us. When it got to Chickasha, I told the kids to put their shoes on. We pulled the cats out of their grain barrels and stuffed them into their cat carrier. When it came time to get the heck out of Dodge, we did just that.
The kids did exactly what my husband and I told them to do. No argument. No questions. No hysteria. No debate.
I don’t give my kids direct commands now that they’re grown. But they still come to me for advice which they don’t always follow, but do take quite seriously. If I flat-out give them an order, such as, bring my vacuum cleaner back – I didn’t give it you – It was a loan – they tease me, then do it. For that matter, I have a hard time ignoring my 89-year-old mother when she asks me to do something, even now with her dementia.
So, what’s wrong with these movie kids? Do other people’s children really ignore their parents the way movie kids do? Do they argue about every thing they’re told to do and even refuse direct commands from their parents?
I never encountered this in all my years of child raising. Neither did any of my homeschooling friends. The teens weren’t terrible, and the rebellions didn’t happen.
The poor children in The War of the Worlds come from a broken home. Their mother is expecting a baby with her husband, who is much wealthier than their father. Their father seems to have a family reputation for being inconsistent and unreliable where the children are concerned. They end up left with this untrustworthy father who they clearly know but don’t respect or trust, not even to love them unconditionally.
I guess, when you look at it through the lens of their messed up family, it’s understandable that they talk back/don’t obey/get hysterical when things are tough. After all, if Daddy has exhibited a long-term pattern of not being there, why should they feel safe relying on him when aliens are killing everybody in sight? They’re running for their lives, with Daddy Every So Often as their only protector.
If they’ve been raised in a home where Mama — who is the only present parent — clearly does not completely trust Daddy to care for them properly, even for a weekend — as she clearly does not — then why should they believe that they have any hope of good decisions and protection from him when the chips are down?
These kids feel safer with their stepfather than they do with their natural father, and he’s just their mother’s husband who they call by his first name.
There are lots of reasons for kids who won’t mind. But our fractured families and terrible home lives have to be high on that list. Even if you give your kids a stable home with their own mom and dad, if you send them to the public schools, they are going to be spending most of their waking hours with peers who are growing up in bad homes.
They are going to encounter the full blast of politically correct education which trains them very deliberately in ideas about family that are antithetical to accepting the authority of their own parents. In fact, much of things they are taught in areas like sex education and social studies seem to be designed to break down parental authority in the key areas of moral, social and spiritual formation.
If, say, an F5 tornado is heading your way, and the kids refuse to do what you tell them, the whole family can get caught out and killed. Ditto for many other situations.
I find it difficult to watch Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds because the children are so damaged. It is a horror tale inside of a horror tale, watching these totally messed-up kids and this total failure of a father try to struggle through the mayhem of an interplanetary attack on Earth. If Spielberg had looked a little closer at what he was saying here, he could easily have created an allegory for the social deconstruction our culture is undergoing.
But he didn’t do that.
Instead, he leaves it there, in front of us, without any real meaning. That’s the way destroyed families with their damaged children are routinely presented in film. We are shown these hideously messed-up families as if they were normal, when they are anything but normal. They are, in fact, dysfunctional to the point of being suicidal.
I don’t spend more time than I have to around ruined families. It’s too unpleasant. These people are too angry, their thinking processes too distorted and confused. People from ruined families don’t seem to be able to process reality. They are easy pickings for the next new thing. Their memories seem to go back to yesterday and not one minute further. No matter how high their native intelligence, they are profoundly stupid and gullible due to the damage that has been inflicted on their psyches.
I simply do not like to spend time with people who can’t think and process; who have no memory and are liable to rages and random contradictory behavior. I understand that they have been hurt and that they are profoundly disabled on an emotional and intellectual level by what their parents and our society has done to them. But they are untrustworthy, hurtful people to know.
There are many challenges in this for today’s Christians. The first and most of important is how we can protect our own children from becoming as damaged as the rest of our society. It’s important, it really, really maters to the future of your children, for you to love their father if you are their mother, and for you to love their mother if you are their father.
It is essential that you commit to the person you make babies with and spend your life working together with them to build your babies into productive, loving people who can form families and raise children of their own.
Do I make that clear?
You need to get married to the mother or father of your children and you need to love the mother or father of your children and you need to respect and treasure and cherish the mother or father of your children for the rest of your life. The two of you must be a team that is dedicated before God to raising the souls that He has entrusted to you. Nothing else you can do with your life matters as much as this.
You have to protect your babies from this poisonous anti-child culture and, as important as an intact family is, protecting them will take even more. This is a society that sacrifices its children in a wanton and uncaring fashion to every false god it sees. From manufacturing them before conception, to murdering them before birth, to destroying their bonds with their parents and subjecting them to social experiments to promote the latest politically correct fantasy, our society has organized itself into a child-sacrificing machine.
If you want your kids to come into their own adulthood undamaged by all this, you have to keep them out of it when they are little. If you do that, they will have the tools to handle it once they become adults. If you don’t, they will be overtaken by it.
That’s why I recommend homeschooling. It works academically. And, given the homeschooling groups and the many organizations available, it also works socially. Your kids will form life-long friendships with the other homeschooled kids. What will be different is that they won’t be forming relationships with kids who are from such damaged homes that they cannot function as whole people.
The second thing we have to do as Christians is to decide how we will convert this sick society of ours. How do we minister to ruined people who are so damaged they cannot form families and raise children of their own? How do we explain a loving God to people who have never been unconditionally loved by anyone in their lives? How do we help them to learn to live Christian lives after they convert?
These are huge questions that I am going to save for another post.
However, I am interested in what Public Catholic readers suggest as remedies.
Talk it over and let’s see what you come up with.