Yesterday I sat with someone discussing a young man I once knew. He’d dealt with a lot – a psychologist might consider calling it ‘complex trauma’ during his formative years, and we were just beginning to get into what children deserve where I found myself grasping for a better word.
Fortunately, the meeting was cut short by someone else before I felt completely ignorant. Why had I not thought about this issue before? It’s not as if I don’t have enough nephews and nieces running around having children at this point. I even have gotten to the point where I’ve lost a nephew and most recently and sadly, a niece, to the inevitable.
There’s a lot of talk about what children deserve. There’s also plenty of talk about entitlement, used in the present day as a negative. There’s a weird space in between. We all believe that children should be given love, protection and safety, and an opportunity to grow – all of these things relative and varying to degree around the world.
The dictionary definition of deserve is related to being worthy of – and generally relates to having earned, or being worthy of. The dictionary definition of entitled contradicts itself in an interesting way. One definition of entitled is to have a right or legitimate claim to something, while the other contextual definition is the assumption that one has the innate right or claim to… stuff.
In modern popular usage, when someone’s entitled, it’s used as a synonym for being spoilt.
We have agreed upon human rights, as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have The Convention of The Rights of the Child, so… do we deserve rights or are we entitled to them? There’s a dilemma in there, particularly because there is so much room for interpretation in any form of right.
A right to be loved? How does one assure that? To be protected? It can get very complicated very quickly with different interpretations even within one culture. Multiply that by the number of cultures in the world.
This is not to say that children should not be treated with love and care by any means. Most of us have an implicit understanding of this, be it through nature or nurture (likely both), but we really are not too great at explaining this when pressed on it, but where one child’s parents may shower them with gifts as their version of love, another child’s parents may not do that (and may not be able to!) so they show love in other ways, maybe. It’s not exact. And, frankly, it doesn’t help children as much as we would like.
Right now, it’s quite likely that within a kilometer radius of you, there’s some child that doesn’t have a home with love to go to – or if so, maybe it’s expressed in very negative ways. Once legal requirements are there for the parenting, a checklist of practical things being done for the child, whether it’s done with love or not is immaterial to a Court of Law because it’s about what you can prove, and only in extreme circumstances can one say that there is no love for a child.
It seems to me that there’s space for a lot of discussion on this because we all believe we know what a child deserves to some degree, but we can’t all agree on what that is aside from very vague things we call rights that some committee came up with and that I suspect most parents and children haven’t read.
A very strange thing, this.