Thursday, November 21, 2013

Growing Up In Sin City

I was planning on doing a quick social media post on an observation I witnessed yesterday while volunteering at JAM's school yesterday. However, the more I thought about it the more I felt compelled to make it into a full blown blog post because it's something Mahal and I talk about all the time. As most of you may know, our little family moved to Las Vegas, NV right after JAM's 2nd birthday. Mahal and I always joke around how JAM is basically a "Las Vegan" and not a "Chicagoan" anymore since he's currently lived most of his life in Vegas. Mahal and I  always reminisce on our up-bringing and experiences as children growing up in Chicago and sometimes hate that JAM won't have the opportunities to create similar memories since his environment is completely different.

We try to make JAM's childhood as "normal" as possible but I always wonder what affects this city has on the upbringing of children who live here. From  the flashy casinos, the half nude women on billboards, people walking around with liquor, and the star-studded events, I always wonder if JAM really even notices. M little sister and I spent whole summers here visiting my dad since I was 10 years old. I remember loving how everything was lit on the Strip, especially simple things like the McDonald's and Walgreens. I also remember walking through the Strip as a teenager and was like thinking "OMG" when I looked down at the sidewalks and saw all the "business cards" of nude women or remember looking at newspaper stands and thinking "whoa, that's not a newspaper". Besides that, we spent most of our summers off the Strip with family so it was kind of an out of sight, out of mind scenario with that type of exposure.

Living so close to the Strip, JAM sees the same things I did as a kid and asks questions but in general it didn't seem like most of it rarely phased him. He was more interested in the guy dressed up as Bumblebee from 'Transformers'. However, as I sat in the corner of JAM's classroom yesterday stapling piles of papers for his teacher, I was quickly reminded that these kids pick up a lot more than I thought. The students gathered together in the front of the classroom to brainstorm occupations for their "what do you want to be when you grow up?" writing assignment. I thought, "Oh, this is too cute. I'm going to hear the typical doctor, lawyer, firefighter, police officer type of response." I was actually pretty shocked when NONE of those options came up. It began with students mentioning jobs that their parents did like a truck driver and a construction worker. I loved that they looked up to their parents in that fashion. After that, I ended up stopping what I was doing and just watched the students as they continued to shout out their dream occupations. "I want to be a hotel housekeeper! I want to be a casino manager! I want to be a star! I want to be a singer and make lots of money! I want to be a magician! I want to be an acrobat! I want to be a dress maker for celebrities!" Eventually the teacher tried to elaborate on other types of jobs that you can still do on the Strip like a chef of your own restaurant or an architect who builds the beautiful building on the Strip. That's when kids started stating jobs like a teacher, a principal, and JAM eventually said he wanted to me a police man.

The teacher sent the students to their desks to create their brainstorming sheet for their writing assignment. They were supposed to write down their dream occupation and three reasons why they chose that occupation. I walked around the classroom just to see what the kids wrote and most of them chose jobs paired with reasons such as "to make lots of money" or "I can live in a hotel". One of JAM's reasons why he chose to be a police officer was so he "could arrest bad guys who are drunk driving". I was kind of surprised by that. I've heard of kids who wanted to arrest bad guys but to add the drunk driving situation was interesting to me. I don't feel like choosing these occupations as a kid's "dream job" is necessarily a bad thing, but it was definitely interesting to witness.

Have you seen any influences like this with your child?