Monday, April 20, 2009

Shooting Last Thursday Night

Sorry, I'm behind the times. Just spotted this story from the Chicago Sun Times. The link will stop working by Friday April 24, so the gist of it is below.

Juan Cazares, 14, was shot and killed Thursday night at the corner of 50th and Wood, near Cornell Square Park, where he had just finished playing a basketball game. I appreciate reporter Annie Sweeney's pains to make clear that this kid was a human being and that this neighborhood is working hard to reduce violence. She's done a lot of reporting on this neighborhood and it shows.

However, I do have to make a comment based on my experience with kids who have left school for one reason or another. Juan was a student at Richard Milburn Alternative High School. Last I knew it was primarily serving students who had been expelled from Chicago Public Schools, so although the piece portrays Juan as a nice kid, I'm sure he was a complicated kid, too. Don't get me wrong; that doesn't mean he should have been killed. Nobody, especially nobody 14 years old, deserves to die. But if there's one thing I've learned from living her for nearly five years, everything is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface.

My prayers go out to Juan and his family. I'm sure he was a lot like Joey and the other boys I know over here on our block, which isn't very far away from his home or from the corner where he died. It's stories like this that make me really nervous about raising a kid, especially a boy, here. It's so easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's also easy for teenage hijinks to get out of hand with terrible, even fatal consequences.

That last point is what it turns out the pushup showdown on Saturday was all about. After the pushup contest ended, I went to the barbecue next door and Peter Pan's uncle told me how it all got started. The older men in the crowd, Yup-yup included, were trying to make a point to the young boys about staying out of trouble--that tagging and gangbanging are not how you prove your manhood. "It's not like I'm a saint--I did my little things when I was their age, too, but somebody has to show them right from wrong," Peter Pan's uncle said.

A woman sitting by the grill told me she has a seven-year-old son. She said, "I already told him, if I see you trying to join a gang, I'm going to take a baseball bat to you myself. If anybody's going to hurt you like that, it's going to be me, not some little gangbanger." She was referring to the gang initiation rite known as "violation in," where to join you have to endure a beating from the gang. It's like frat hazing on steroids.

I'm just fascinated that Yup-yup got in on the "don't do it" message. It's too bad most of those young boys probably aren't connecting the dots between what they're up to now and guys like Yup-yup and even Tony. Those thugs who live to be old thugs never die, they just end up hustling and washing cars and doing other people's yard work, when they aren't locked up.


Anonymous said...

About raising a child. Your former roommate is a couple of years ahead of you. Here are my thoughts:

The years of 0-6 are critical for human development. Obstacles created during this time can be overcome, but success can be mixed. Lay a good foundation.

Small children repeat what they hear and mimic what they see. They take as their models the people they spend the most time with. In my experience, a new behavior from a stranger might be copied when first seen, but a parent's message that a new behavior is not acceptable is adhered to. Parents and caregivers have by far the most influence. (Older siblings might have even more influence, but I can't speak to that since my son is an only child for now.) Turn off the TV; be very selective about watching videos.

Somewhere between the age of 2 and 4, you will have to be prepared to answer questions about the world around you. First, "What is that?" for what the child sees. We're in this stage now at 2 1/2. Then, "Why?" about what the child sees other people do. We're not quite there yet, but I know it will come. Sounds like this could be a challenge in your complicated world. Why do good people do bad things? A good ally here is to start talking about God, sin (mistakes), and mercy as early as you can connect the words to his experiences. Never, never underestimate what a small child can understand.

Actually, that one bears repeating: Don't avoid explaining things just because you think a child is too little to understand. You could be imposing a limit that otherwise wouldn't exist. Throw it out there, and you'll often be delighted at what happens. Our son already has long had a notion of days of the week and months, and he can provide a rudimentary explanation of a particle accelerator (there's a tube, and inside the tube, the protons and anitprotons go crash).

Parents spending time with their child is the most important thing, I think, in these early years (probably for their whole life; I just haven't arrived at the later years yet).

Maritza said...

I enjoyed your comment, former roomie, and hope other readers will as well. Have to laugh about the TV, since as you know, I've never owned one. It's so funny how a number of other parent friends have insisted I'll want one for myself once the baby arrives. They imagine I'll go stir-crazy in the house without it. I think otherwise, but a TV may appear here in the next few months anyway for watching movies. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

It's your roomie again. The funny thing about the TV in our house is that we do use it exclusively for video (Fantasia, The Orchestra, and our home videos). Our son has no idea that it plays anything else, though he has seen TV at our neighbor and my parents' houses. Once at my parents' house he looked at what my dad was watching and said, "Grandma and Grandpa's television has basketball!!" He really likes watching basketball games (and is entranced when we go to a sports bar for lunch when shopping in the "city"). But, he has no idea that basketball could appear on our TV with the press of a button.

My husband says that video is great for small children if used well, and I would agree. Our son knows and remembers his overseas relatives much, much better thanks to videos we have taken. He also remembers the seasons and what a birthday party is, so that in his second year of life he "remembered" those events when they came around again, thanks to having seen the video (repeatedly) from those same events during his first year of life.

It's *definitely* true that small children mimic what they see, so be careful what videos you do choose. After our son watches video of himself as a baby, we see him repeat the behaviors -- not always so great. On the other hand, it is a beautiful sight to watch him climb on his podium (a stool), raise his baton (a chopstick), and conduct the orchestra, as in his video The Orchestra, or as Leopold Stokowsky (without baton) in the first clip of the original Fantasia movie.

Anonymous said...

Me again. I forgot to say: A laptop computer works fine for watching movies. Sit the child in the high chair with the computer on the table if you want to get things done while he is watching (even I have been known to use this tactic, though not often). Or, sit on the couch with your legs up and hold the child in your lap and the laptop further down on your legs for watching while cuddling. Also, our 2 1/2 year old has yet to watch a full-length movie. We started with clips of 10 minutes. (Hence Fantasia.) Now he might watch 15 to 30 minutes of his orchestra video at a time, but even that means we break it into pieces. Our home videos on the computer are in 10-minute chunks. He might watch several at a time, but there's still a break while I change videos. I really don't think that a full-length movie would hold his attention...

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