Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Who Will You Be When You Grow Up?
My daughter, who will be six on Thursday, was talking about what she would be when she grows up. She can't decide of course, like most six year olds, but so far I think she wants to be a princess doctor ballerina piano player. I jokingly said "mommy hasn't even decided what she wants to be when she grows up so there is no hurry."
How many of us, at six, knew? How many of us would let a six year old make that decision for us now? I have 4 children, all daughters and what I've tried to impress upon them is that it's not so important what you are when you grow up but who you will be. What kind of person will you become, and indeed, what kind of person are you now?
Children have the most delightful way of living completely in the moment. Yes they think about the future, but they don't live there. It's rather frustrating at times, for us as parents who have our own agenda, to deal with the child who dawdles or plays or jumps when it's time to be quick or serious or still.
I was reading a blog article the other day about how little we value childhood in our society, that children are a burden to be borne and that we must hurry and make them independent for their own good(a great lie we tell ourselves, when it's us who are in such a big rush) so that they can survive in the real world. (I would love to give credit and a link but I can't find it now. If it was your blog please inform me).
Yet it is those among us who have the ability to accept what is, to feel joy in simple moments, to adjust and flow and be resilient in the real world that survive and make it through relatively unscathed. Those who are emotionally ready and not rushed through. Those who are rushed through, forced to grow up, forced to be adults while still kids, to be independent, spending hours per day without the guidance of a parent to teach and model behaviour, these kids often have the most difficulty adjusting to real life.
I watched/listened to a speech yesterday that Michael Jackson gave at Oxford University in 2001 about the rights of children and how a whole generation of children have been robbed of the right to be childlike because of society's need to rush them through, make them independent. It seems there is a rush to adulthood, I see it in the media, the clothing, the trends, the need for stuff instead of substance, television or computers or organized activities, instead of simple play. There is a push to academia at 2 years old, hothousing to make little geniuses, making a child's value dependent upon what he can provide in the way of pride for the parents rather than the parents simply being proud of who he or she naturally is.
I think even a child asking the innocent question "What will I be when I grow up?" needs a different answer then the one that describes a job or a career. What a child needs is the ability to answer the question "Who am I now? How am I of value?" and they need to recieve the most simple answer "You are the most perfect creation on earth, you are my child and I love you" and that's it. No conditions, implied or otherwise.
We as parents need to love our children unconditionally, without a thought as to what they will eventually be but for exactly as they are right this moment, products of a universe that is divine, full and valuable citizens of planet earth with abilities and knowledge of the moment that is superior to any an institute of higher learning can instill.
I watch my two younger children playing at the lakeside the other day. To find such joy in just being at the water's edge, to just pile sand and be together, in the sunshine, in the water, with their mother and each other. To just be there was such a joy.
My job is only to guide them through to peaceful resolutions to conflict but it's not to interfere with their growth and individuality. I don't want them to be anything in particular when they grow up, my only dream is that they follow their own dreams, walk their own paths and find joy in the simple things, the piles of sand, the roar of the surf, the magic of the driftwood at every age. I would expect maturity to change how this manifests but I hope the inert joy, the childlike appreciations stays with them into adulthood.
And finally, myself, as I stumble forward, finally finding a path, I'm learning to unschool myself, to find for me not what I want to be when I grow up, I still haven't figured that out, but I know who I am now and who I will always be. I had to grow back into it. I hope my children never grow out of it.
Michael Jacksons’ bill of seven inalienable children’s rights
1 the right to be loved without having to earn it
2 the right to be protected without having to deserve it
3 the right to feel valuable even if you came into the world with nothing
4 the right to be listened to without having to be interesting
5 the right to be read a bedtime story without having to compete with the evening news (or Eastenders)
6 the right to an education without having to dodge bullets at school
7 the right to be thought of as adorable (even if you ha a face only a mother could love)
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