By Ageleke Zapis
For the life of me, I can’t understand why parents use the mall (or as they are now sometimes referred to, “Life Style Centers”) as their default babysitter. When the weather warms up, and when schools let out for the summer, many parents believe that this is the time to drop their kids off, or let them hitch a ride with someone, and hit the pavement hard at the nearest LSC, I mean, the mall.
When we were teenagers, we were never let loose at the mall to run wild and act up with our friends. We were at home doing homework or told to spend quality time with our family. (Truth be told, sometimes it was quality time and other times it was quantity time.) As far as my parents were concerned, hitching a ride with my friend Jackie to the mall was never an acceptable option. I was allowed to wander as far as my mother’s voice would carry and not an inch further. (For the record, her voice carried down to the end of the block.)
In today’s anything-can-happen world where there are so many more dangers lurking, parents seem to be more lax than ever about letting their children wander off. I fully understand the need for kids to congregate. It’s in their DNA. I get that. But the malls/LSCs have become inundated, to the point where weekends can look like a casting call for extras on a Twilight movie.
And let’s add the never-ending saga of teenage grooming and appearances to the mix. Everywhere you look, boys are walking with their pants hanging down below their butts and girls are wearing skirts that would barely qualify as a headband. I’m sure that these kids leave the house and quickly modify their outfits with an imagination that would make illusionists Criss Angel and David Copperfield green with envy.
While I’ve learned to handle the lack of grooming and come to grips with the “I’m just expressing myself” attire these kids often display, I still struggle with their lack of manners. On one recent occasion, my husband and I were headed to the movies after dinner and wound up having to navigate our way through a group of teens, saying “excuse us” countless times because these kids were so consumed with their smartphones. It was like walking through a techno-geek obstacle course.
Of course, it could be worse, as we’ve also discovered, with many teens displaying overly aggressive behavior, jumping around and generally being loud. Again, I understand the whole youthful energy thing, but where’s their creativity? Seems like they could come up with so many other ways to spend their time and energy, rather than aimlessly wandering around the mall.
So what’s a parent to do? Here’s a thought — how about going to the movies with your kids once in a while? I’m sure it would be an eye opener to see how other kids behave without parental supervision. Or get your kids involved in music, in art, or even go to the LSC with them. They would not only enjoy these activities, but they would also grow in their development toward adulthood. And this would cut down on their visits to the mall and help them discover that there is a big, exciting world out there beyond the confines of the food courtyard.
Ageleke Zapis is the author of A Childless Woman’s Guide to Raising Children.
Read Julie Cristal’s rebuttal to parenting advice by a childless woman.