Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Childhood Joy & The Bieber Factor

It's been a sad week for children. Thinking about children, remembering being a child, thinking about parenthood, and just worrying about the future in general. The Sandy Hook Elementary School incident in Newtown, Connecticut has people around the globe thinking the same thing: why?

Childhood is supposed to be a protected time. A time for joy, for laughter, for friendship, and play...love and warmth, and pleasantries. Not everyone is blessed to have a problem-free childhood, but the one thing that we can count on is innocence. If nothing else...your childhood is protected by an innocence and a hopefulness, truly because you don't know any better!

So thinking about those children who perished, and those who had to witness the murders of their classmates, and hear the destruction of their peers, and live through the heartbreak of their community and neighbours is nothing short of devastating.

Thinking about the innocence and hopefulness that was snatched away from these children is definitely almost too sad to bear. It's a reality that no one (of any age) should have to live through...yet it's even more difficult to comprehend when you think about a child having to understand the magnitude of such a horror.

It's terrible, to say the least.

While saturating myself in CNN and other news coverage of the Newtown situation for the past few days (while also home sick and stuck in bed for the most part), I decided to take a Netflix break and watch a movie or two. I passed by Justin Bieber's 2011 documentary "Never Say Never" and decided to take it in.

I had been thinking about children all weekend, and the simple pleasures that made them happy: "she liked the colour purple"...or "she liked to draw" were phrases that Anderson, Piers, Soledad and Blitzer and them were quoting throughout the day. In their short lives, these children were in love with such simple pleasures. Colours made them happy. Toys made them happy.

We know the feeling. We were all there once.

And so I watched Justin Bieber's journey from he was an infant, until his first show at Madison Square Garden...and I can't lie, it was really really interesting for a few reasons. Number one: that kid is really talented! He can sing, he plays a few instruments (well), and he worked hard before he became the scream-inducing adolescent heart throb we see today. Number two: his family support, and the team around him really helped to shape his character, which appears to be really pleasant and humble. Number three: it reminded me that you can ..."Find out what's possible if you never give up." as the movie's tag line says. It was inspiring for me as a grown woman...and definitely inspiring for the 9-year-old girls who probably packed the theatre on opening day in February of 2011 to catch the movie on the big screeen.

I'm no stranger to mass hysteria and poster-making at concerts, believe me. As early as the 5th grade I was a hardcore New Kids on the Block Fan. There wasn't an album I didn't have, a concert I didn't attend, and a poster of Danny Wood I didn't have up on my bedroom wall. I was all about that life.

It was about 1988 to about 1991 (5th through 7th grade) and I allowed myself to be lost in the whirlwind of excitment that came along with being a super fan. Looking back, I can remember feeling shame at times (being a "black girl" NKOTB fan, for starters...having people classify me--an otherwise mature and responsible young lady--as a foolish teenybopper), and I can remember getting older and approaching the 8th grade and feeling guilty for still caring about what they were up to. I was cool listening to Black Sheep, Chubb Rock, the UMCs, Salt N Pepa, and LL Cool J...but I was embarassed for being a New Kids supporter!

But I can still remember the FEELING. And when I watched lil Bieber going through his career motions, and making girls cry, and dance, and sing, and have the experience of a lifetime every time they saw his face or heard his voice...I remembered how great it felt to be happy in that moment.

As a child, it doesn't take much to make your day a good one. It doesn't take a lot of money, or a lot of planning, or structure...but sometimes it's just one simple thing, song, or group that can bring you that FEELING of safety, of happiness, and just uncontrollable joy.

The Bieber Factor. It all made so much sense to me when I watched him. The power of childhood, and the power of innocence. The simplicity...and yet how easily that simplicity can be completely complicated and ruined.

Murder. Assault rifles. Substance abuse. Neglect. Abandonment. Hunger. Fear. Those elements should never enter the world of a child! It's hard enough to deal with them as an adult...but as a child, if you can count on nothing else...it's those few years of protection from the "real world" and the ugliness that it contains. If nothing else...children NEED the simplicity.

My personal New Kids on the Block era was magical. I can't front. When I look back at those years, I remember nothing but pleasantries. Making new friends (other fans via pen pals around the world, some of whom I still keep in touch with!), experiencing elaborate concerts, and being a part of something bigger than my world. It was a movement, and at the time it was a few protected years of good memories, what we believed to be fantastic music, and the ability to love something and have faith in something that would never disappoint you.

I'm glad I have those childhood/adolescent memories. Because as we all know, after the 8th grade and into high school and beyond...shit gets a little bit complicated. People get complicated, and layer by layer, we start to see the world, our families, our "society," and all of the intricacies, flaws, and confusions that accompany life.

I'm glad I had Joe, Donnie, Danny, Jon, and Jordan (yeah, I still remember their names!) just like I'm glad the little girls of today have Justin Bieber. If he makes them HAPPY, then so be it. Because guess what...there is a community of children in Newtown who might not remember what happiness feels like for a good while. And there are children in Chicago, or in the West Indies, and in Toronto that also may not have the opportunity to know what it feels like to scream with joy and cry tears of extreme happiness over complete foolishness! They may never have a chance to be so carefree to be classified as a teenybopper. They might have other things to worry about.

So if they can have it...let them have it. Let them have the fanfare!

Back in 2008, one of my old-school girl friends called me up to see if I wanted to check out the New Kids on the Block "reunion" tour. Yes, I'm a grown ass woman...and yes, I was totally down for the movement. No second thoughts.

Months later, we met up at the ACC with about 18,000 other grown ass women...and to my surprise, I wasn't the only adult who had paid $50 for my ticket. I can't even lie...the atmosphere was so ridiculously pleasant and nostalgic that it warmed my soul. And what I loved most, was seeing the other 30-something-year-old females toting their young daughters along with them for the experience. They wanted to bring them along back to re-live those "magical" New Kids moment with their young Bieber fans.

So pleasant.

So there we were: 18,000 grown ass women singing out loud to our old favourites like fools, and grooving to the memories of year's past. It was the first stop of their 30+ city North American tour where venues like Madison Square Garden in NYC, the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, and Mandalay Bay in Vegas were being sold out. It wasn't just the crazy ladies in Toronto taking a stroll down memory lane. It was women everywhere! Mothers! Wives! Professionals! Black women too (I wasn't alone)!! Plenty of them.

Cheesy, possibly, but 100% genuine for sure. I FELT the power of that moment. Coming together as adults, and going back in time 20 years to a place where we were all resided in an innocent musical bliss simply by watching them boys dance, and hearing them boys swoon.

So low Bieber. Low the other young boy bands, and teen heart throbs. Let people have their fun. Let children get caught up in the moment...because even though the moment might seem like a joke, seem superficial, or un-important...sometimes we hold on to those moments of complete purity to get us through the rough times down the road.

And I'm not talking about scandalous Rihanna, or law-breaking Lindsay Lohan...you do have to draw the line with celebrity appreciation and obsession because it CAN be dangerous. But when it comes to something pure, and innocent, and something that helps to raise the spirit and put a smile on someone's face, it's so worth it.

Because the good times don't last forever. As we know, the innocence only lasts for so long.

I think of those children in Newtown, and I wish they could only have to wake up tomorrow, or next month, or next year, and only have to worry about loving "Justin 4eva" on their minds.

The world can be such a scary and unstable place...and it sucks to be reminded in this way. I'm praying for more good memories, good feelings, and good moments for the children of Newtown and for us all. Everywhere. We might eventually lose our childhood innocence, but we should consistently try to bring feelings of joy, love, comfort, support, and protection to the children (and adults) in our lives.

We need to save our souls. Preserve the magic. Facilitate the joy.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson by Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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