Saturday, December 12, 2009

Charlie Brown

I love the comic strip Peanuts. When I was about Charlie Brown’s age–approximately eight years old–I relished Sunday mornings because it meant nesting in my father’s lap to read the funny pages with him. I did not understand most of the comic strips my dad liked best. He usually roared with laughter at Andy Capp and Beetle Bailey. What was with that bag of ice on Andy Capp’s head and why was his wife always screaming at him?

When we finally got to the Peanuts comic strip, I was completely entranced. Dennis the Menace and Nancy were some of my favorites, but it was really Charlie Brown who captured my heart.

I thought Charlie Brown and I were soul mates. He was tenderhearted, a little goofy and definitely gullible. Charlie Brown never tattled on anyone, he never got angry or ran away crying with his feelings hurt. He just patiently put up with everyone else’s quirks and oddball personalities. He wanted, so badly, to fit in that he tolerated anything and everybody. Sometimes I wanted to boot him in the behind and tell him to stand up for himself.

Even though Charlie Brown tried so hard to be a part of the gang, he always managed to foul things up. He dropped the game-winning pop fly. He picked out the most pathetic Christmas tree. Even Snoopy laughed at him. It was a lifetime of humiliation for poor, poor Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s heart was pure gold and that put him at the top of the list for me. I loved him for choosing the littlest tree on the lot. No boy I knew had that kind of sensitivity or vision. To me, he was the most humble boy alive.

Now that I am grown, married and have a child, my heart aches for heroes like Charlie Brown. My son, who is the same age now, that I was on those memorable Sunday morning’s with my father before heading off to church. My son doesn’t have Charlie Brown to show him how to handle life’s trials.

Instead, my son and his friends have warped pop stars making daily headlines with their twisted behavior. They have prime-time television featuring half-naked stars engaged in behavior that is questionable even for consenting adults. Children are exposed to commercials during so-called family hours, complete with explicit language and inappropriate subjects. Even sports heroes jump from one public relationship to another, in-between answering charges of illegal performance and enhancing drugs. Divorce has become the norm among my son’s friends and it no longer upsets him and pre-marital cohabitation is flaunted by parents at school.

Safeguarding our children’s innocence should be a priority for all parents, but in this media age, it is a daunting task. Sure, parents patrol the Internet, newspapers, magazines and books that children are using. Parents try to keep positive influences in their children’s lives with church and family time. Children are encouraged to play sports, take music lessons, learn horseback riding, attend dance classes and endless other activities. In fact, many parents are over scheduling their children to their detriment, to ensure that they are being supervised and receiving positive messages—but what else can parents do?

While Charlie Brown was a tolerant guy, I think even he would get mad at this country’s downward spiraling culture. I know kindhearted, innocent Charlie Brown would be petrified of the even uglier society that lurks around the corner.

Sadly, I no longer see myself as Charlie’s soul mate. I have become more like Lucy, banging and screaming for Charlie Brown and the rest of the world to wake up.

With fewer and fewer Charlie Browns for our children to look up to how can parents be surprised when our children have become spoiled, narcissistic, uncharitable and demanding?

Maybe instead of wondering where Charlie Brown has gone, as parents, we all need to become more like Charlie Brown ourselves. Patient, positive and always looking up, taking what we learned from him and sharing those character traits and lessons with our children. Who knows, maybe even Lucy would approve.

Written by Jane C. Autler - Baton Rouge Parents Magazine


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