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Beneath the finely groomed blissful suburban façade of America lurk desperation, denial, hypocrisy, and anger. The kids of suburbia today have an entirely different reality than the suburbs I grew up in during the 1970’s. The Ozzie & Harriet idealized version of suburbia from the 1950’s has degenerated to the Green Day nightmare vision of today. The suburbs have mansion-like homes with spotless interiors, entertainment centers, three car garages, manicured lawns, and no soul. The children of suburbia have been brought up on soda pop and Ritalin. They come home to empty mansions, as both parents must work to pay for the glorious abode. Our homes have gotten bigger and better, while our lives have gotten smaller and less satisfying. One third of all children in the United States are growing up in a single parent household. Many kids feel angry and disconnected from their families, friends and home. Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. The kids feel rage and hopelessness at their existence in a suburban nightmare. There are 2 million children who take Ritalin every day. Is this because they truly have ADHD, or it is the painless way out for overstressed suburban parents?
My parents both grew up in South Philly. My Dad had a good secure job with Atlantic Richfield and they took the leap to the 1st ring of suburbs outside of Philadelphia in 1955. They bought a 1,120 sq ft row home in Collingdale for $10,000. It had 3 small bedrooms and one small bathroom. They raised three kids (and three dogs) in this home and my Mother still lives there today. I shared (not happily) a 100 sq ft room with my brother and when I was six, the boogeyman who lived under the bed. We had a double bed, two bureaus, a nightstand, a bookshelf and a desk for studying in this room. When I walk in the room today, I wonder how we possibly shared this small space. Prisoners at Guantanamo have more space. In the summer, with no air conditioner upstairs, I’m sure it got as hot as a Guantanamo prison cell. The walls were so thin between row homes I knew what the people next door were thinking. People never moved. We were a neighborhood where everyone knew everyone. You could depend on your neighbors. There were cookouts, holiday parties, and you could ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar. If your son (me) fell through the basement stairs and cracked his head open on the concrete floor, a neighbor would drive him to the hospital. The fathers went to work. Mothers worked at home, because they could. Mothers were there when the kids arrived home from school. No one was divorced in our neighborhood. All the kids went to the same school. No one was diagnosed with ADHD. I cut our lawn with a manual push mower. Times have surely changed. Bigger hasn’t translated into better over the decades.