Belfast Telegraph

What's really scary is why kids don't use their imaginations

By Nuala McKeever

Have you seen the latest – Easter egg-flavoured Christmas cake? No, you're right. It's not true. I just made it up. But I'll betcha at least a couple of people reading this thought, "Ooh... must try that!"

I really believe now that we could be sold anything. As long as someone else tells us we need it, or that someone else will definitely be buying it, then we just have to go out and get it ourselves.

Thank God last week's over. I'm sure this just sounds like an oul' doll rant, but seriously, all that Halloween overkill was really winding me up.

Is it my imagination, or did Halloween become massively more Disneyfied this year than ever before? It's been creepin' up over the last few years, but it seemed this year as if everyone had decided to embrace the Americanisation of the occasion with open arms.

On Thursday I stood in a massive queue at the supermarket surrounded by harried parents and children clutching pumpkins and special paint and special Halloween face decoration kits and special Halloween chocolates and special bags for carrying all the sweeties in from trick or treating (when did it stop being called "goin' round the doors"?) and, of course, special, ready-made, cheap and nasty "costumes" for dressing up in.

Everything had to be bought. Everything was commercial. Everything was throwaway, one use only, over-priced and over-sold. Everything was taken care of by the seller. Everything except maybe the most important thing of all – imagination.

That seems to be the one commodity that's totally out of fashion. Don't think for yourself about dressing up, just stick on a ready-made costume bought off the rack. Yeah, it looks like Cinderella or Batman or a proper witch, but it's got no appeal 'cos there's no you in it!

The message that children and older children (ie the young adults who queue for hours outside costume hire shops to pay for a Zombie outfit (?!?!?!?) instead of using a bit of wit and a pair of scissors and turning a second-hand outfit into the zombie creation of their own) seem to be getting is that the most important thing is to have it given to them. Doesn't matter if it's not great, so long as it's bought or hired, so long as it doesn't mean they step outside the herd and actually show some individuality and imagination.

What sort of people are we breeding? Kids who need to be taken by the hand to go round the doors, who can't carry their booty unless it's in a container made in China, from plastic.

Kids who aren't allowed to come up with their own ideas, but kept mentally passive while being stoked up to physical hyperness with sugar from "treats" that are so everyday and commonplace, that the kids actually say "No" occasionally when they're offered yet another party-sized Snickers or an everlasting lolly.

The rush to have everything means there's now so much that nothing has any value at all. Things aren't made to last so they're tossed away. A whole generation is growing up with no memory of a time when our world wasn't organised like that. At least people my age have some muscle memory of life before brand-obsession and disposable everything. But the Pumpkins-for-Halloween generation don't.

Someone said they're called the helicopter kids, 'cos their parents are always hovering. Yeah, hovering and always stepping in at the first sign that their child might be about to have to think for itself.

Now that's what I call scary...

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