As I write this, it’s Universal Children’s Day*.
I am a sucker for any day with ‘Children’ in it. Children are people with fewer filters and fewer presets. I enjoy the way the world looks from their perspective, and of course I enjoy letting them in on my own world perspective, too.
At the grandkids’ house the other day, my 4-year-old darling asked me to “read” her the story of a big scary giant. I said I’d give her the 3 Billy Goats Gruff, and the fun began.
As I told the story, which she’s heard since she was a baby, she joined in with key phrases, then began to act out the parts.
“Now, Gran, I’ll be the great big billy goat,” she said. “You be the troll under the bridge.”
Having properly disposed of the Troll after much trip-trapping and to-do, (he sinks to the bottom of the Whitefish River, then is washed out into Lake Michigan and never seen again,) we ‘read’ Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She was each bear in turn and then Goldilocks, properly horrified at the mess she’s made. Then she told me the story of the 3 Birds, which involved porridge and an intruder. We talked about going into other people’s houses (Goldilocks never went into one again without being invited,) and about being careful of other peoples’ stuff.
This is the way my own children learned: interaction with parents preparing the way for interaction with a world which gradually introduced itself more and more into their lives. Home schooling was a natural honoring of children’s desire to learn and to be a useful part of what goes on around them.
My grandbabies know more at each age than my children did. (I think they are extraordinary, and that’s part of it.) Our delivery systems now are more efficient than Sesame Street, more constant than Carmen San Diego, more troubling than MTV.
What we are gaining here seems evident: letters, numbers, ASL, travel-at-home. The little screens we use to socialize the young of our privileged society offer them the world. This includes ‘videos’ that are thinly disguised commercials and that also teach the ‘right’ way to play with the commodity toys shown. It includes concepts that are older than they are, and so, inappropriate for a variety of reasons. Monsters lurk around corners, including human monsters. The loss of human contact is just one unseen casualty of the Daily Strife we put ourselves through.
My kids watched Sesame Street, Carmen San Diego, and (behind my back) MTV. And yet they live and thrive! I’m pretty sure the grandbabies will do the same. But I’m an old-fashioned woman. I think parents do a better job of defining their children’s world than even Little Einsteins.
And so I will continue to do what I’ve always done with kids – play what they want to play, tell stories, listen to dreams, sing songs, and share the jobs that need to be done. It is important work in our modern world. I invite you to enjoy it with me!
* Which is an interesting concept in itself. Universal. Maybe not – I’ll bet those of us in developed countries are the ones celebrating and children in 3rd world countries are still working alongside their parents. Or begging in the streets.
DISCLAIMER: My children are perfect, with perfect partners. This is a societal rant, not a personal one!