WISDOM OF THE YOUTH
We say children are the future. Do we mean it? Keep reading!
It’s been on my mind a lot the ways that children are treated. Especially the ways I’ve treated children as I’ve become an adult. So often as a child, I would ask a question, or try to participate in an “adult conversation,” only to be reminded that I wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t the boundary between adult and child, designed to protect me from information that wasn’t suitable for me, that made me upset. It was that too often, I wasn’t allowed to showcase that I was quite capable of understanding what was happening or what was being discussed. I felt that those adults wanted an egotistical sense of control over me and the other kids around me, or to free themselves of the responsibility to censor their words when the opportunity for us to learn required an adjustment to their communication. I must note that my mother was the exception to this rule, and that within my household I was actually granted a lot of intellectual freedom as well as the green light to ask certain questions, be creative and express myself.
I don’t believe that children should be exposed to any and or everything. I know there is an innocence to preserve and that a young mind is very impressionable and should be taught and cultivated with careful attention. I also know that being a parent is not easy. Not because I am a parent (I’m not) but because, I am an adult that was once a child and I, probably just like you, am able to see now that what my mother did for our family (and what all great mothers/fathers/parents do for their family) was a miracle. In that realization, it became clear to me that my mother was not my infallible mythical creature hero. Initially, it disappointed me to discover that she made mistakes! (Not MY mom!!) But ironically, it’s seeing my mother as a human, capable of pain, errors, fears and weaknesses in contrast to all the wonderful strengths I always knew of, that made her my hero in real life.
Children need a space to see their parents mess up. They need to be able to ask their parents questions that are uncomfortable. They need to be taught that their parent’s advice, beliefs & opinions are not law. Children should be able to challenge that advice, those beliefs and those opinions. They need to see their parents handle “messing up,” failing, dealing with pain, hurt, and struggle. Not all the time, but enough to learn from them how to deal with those things.
Sheltering the youth from the many facets of the world; sex, drugs, entertainment, dealing with emotions, responsibilities, self-esteem, self-expression, prejudices, social class, travel, multi-cultures, money management, health, education, business management, eco-system/planet/science, death, various religions, government/politics and the infinite degrees of human relationships, does not benefit them in all instances. It can coddle them and force them to have to figure all of these things out on their own as an adult. This is a late start. We shouldn’t have to discover the world for the first time when we turn 18 or 21. These categories can be introduced to us as children and can be cultivated through conversation, quality time and the constant expression of love.
When we tell kids to go in the other room and play, or to be quiet simply because they are young, or that they can not participate in any conversations, more often than we welcome them, what are we teaching them? That they are not worthy? That they are not allowed to have an opinion? That what they think is not valuable?
When we whip our kids constantly, or scream at them in fits of frustration, cursing them out and being verbally abusive, what are we teaching them? Are we the modern day slave masters? Does every kid require this kind of punishment to learn? Are we trying to instill fear into them in hopes of making them become who we want them to be? Do we want them to feel inferior? Or are we giving them the creative space to develop and become who they want to be and who they’re meant to be?
Part of the reason we become people pleasers and members of a society living and breathing to maintain a status quo that offers nothing except a pat on the back and a waste of life, is because when we were young, some adults may have stollen our magic. We are born creative, free, playful, happy, and beautifully kind. We generally are not racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic or afraid to express ourselves or say what’s on our mind. We are explicitly our unique self. We are inquisitive, honest and eager to learn and explore life. Then, the power struggle begins. The requirement to bow down to someone. To be quiet. To blend in. Not to say things that may hurt people. And we become flaccid and boring with an inherited disease to please.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. We can end this cycle and find a new balance. There can still be boundaries drawn between children and adults without robbing them of their original beauty. It’s our responsibility as parents and adults, to welcome the youth and share what we have learned without imposing our beliefs. It’s our responsibility to provide them with as much information as possible so that they can continue to have the advantages of wisdom we didn’t have. This is one of the ways we can contribute to the collective of the world. This is how we evolve faster by the generation and pass on worthwhile traditions. This is how we end the cycles of hurtful parenting that boggled us down when we were once bubbling excited kids ourselves.
The problem is not with the questions and the curiosity of the youth. It’s with the weight of the world on us as adults and our learned pessimism. Children remind us of the time we didn’t have pain and disappointments. They remind us of the world we believed in before we experienced harsh realities and broken dreams. Children remind us of our fears that our dreams might not come true. That we might not be their perfect heroes. But, if we can open up to them in a way that still preserves their innocence, but that passes on our wisdom, it’s the kids that can be our inspiration. We can learn from them! Their wisdom is abundant. They can give us new energy, ideas, perspectives and points of view. The relationship between us is symbiotic. I’m excited to spend a different kind of time with the kids around me and open myself up to them. One thing that we have to remember is that we can learn and grow from anyone. And also that at one point, we were all children and we were all affected negatively and positively by adults in our life. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes that we experienced.
Thank you for reading. I understand that this post is very opinionated (not law and is subjective) and couldn’t possibly cover the entire scope of childhood. I welcome your perspective and response. Do you agree with this post? Disagree? Have a comment? Let me know.
Listen to my latest #MondayLoveDrop, a cover of Natalie Cole’s #Inseparable below: