This entry was contributed by Five Town CTC Board member Ed O'Brien, a Lincolnville resident and clinician at Harbor Family Services.
As my parents could attest, I have always challenged the notion of “the good old days.” I have now lived long enough to hear my peers refer to our own upbringing in the‘70’s and ‘80s as “the good old days”- “when children had Respect.” Baloney. Every generation has had positives and negatives. When I look at the world my own children are growing up in, I see both great opportunities, and things that cause me to fear the future. Ibelieve every parent in every generation experienced the same feelings. We have the ability, however, to look at the past and learn lessons that might help youth today.
Reading the stories my mother has gathered, I do see a common theme in the families of the past. Due in a large part to necessity, youth were an integral part of the community. They were involved in all areas of the family and the community as active participants- working on the farms, taking care of younger children, making deliveries for the family business. They were visible, and adolescent culture was not as separate from adult culture. Because of this visibility, potential issues could be recognized earlier, and dealt with before a problem developed.
To me, it is not a matter of putting kids to work, or eliminating the youth culture- we have child labor laws for a reason, and adolescence is no longer simply a brief or non-existent interlude between childhood and productive adulthood. But I do see this visibility of youth in the community as something we can do a better job with. If we can find more ways to involve youth with the adult world, I think the entire community can benefit. We have some great programs for youth, but too often they turn into ways to keep youth off the streets and invisible. We need to find more ways to integrate,to recover a positive piece of the community preserved in black and white photographs.