Our four year old son is to me the best example of where all the various human tendencies originate. We all grow up seeing the world through our own lenses, and sometimes those of our loved ones. Some of the things that we do, come as second nature and go as unquestioned. I’ve noticed that being a parent has afforded me a grand opportunity to learn about human nature, in that we see the nature of ourselves reflected in our children. Someone once referred to children as mirrors, it is from them that you can see a clearer reflection of yourself.
Our son, as with many kids his age, is a happy, energetic, and rambunctious child. He is fond of any physical exercise, be it running, football, basketball, or wrestling. He is also an ardent Mummi watcher, and is game for anything comical. He plays jokes on us, laughs from the belly when happy and pleased, and cries with equal measure when he’s sad or disgruntled. After observing him over the years, it appears to me that there seems to be no half measures with this little one.
Over the last 4 years of raising him, I have learnt more things about myself, people, and our society, than I could have ever imagined. I have found that a child plays the role of a mentor in one’s life, and this experience has undoubtedly pushed my every button and I’m sure will continue to do so for a long time to come. Also, it has allowed me a chance to grow. I now realise that as the child grows so does the parent raising it.
Sometimes we think we can be prepared for all that a child can introduce into our lives, but this often is not the case, because of their unpredictable nature. Kids will say the strangest things, things which can knock you down for a loop. Often such utterances catch you unawares, off-guard and most likely unprepared. In a peculiar way, this almost always forces you to give an honest response considering that there is not enough time to fabricate a ‘standard’ response.
I often wonder…
What do parents think of children as we undertake the process of raising them? Do we feel that children are here to learn from us, and that our role is that of eternal teachers, and seldom students?
Why do we get roped in by societal norms, such as boy’s dress in blue, and play with guns and complicated machines, while girls wear pink, spend time brushing some doll’s hair and focusing on physical appearance. Even the gendered nature of the stories that we tell to children is bound to create some preconceived ideas of roles they must play. If girls are told tales of prince charming and knights in shining armour, coming to their rescue, away from their dull and unexciting lives, won’t these girls grow up with some similar expectation of always waiting on a man to come to their rescue? And with boys, with the focus being on physical strength, bravery and valour, are we not also creating the perception that boys can never be sensitive, intuitive and less inclined towards violence or aggression?
Children have an unbelievable capacity to absorb and remember information, thus one wants to take care not to condition them according to norms that seem to have their roots in ancient times. We pluck any old norm from relative obscurity, and apply it in our very different zeitgeist without really considering that they might be outdated. Considering that children teach us everyday who they are by their very behaviours, as well as what it is that they are inclined to; it would stand to reason that it is better to rather allow them to just be themselves.
One of the strangest things about children though, is how they seem to be in such a hurry to be grown up. They want to be bigger in almost every aspect. They elevate boys and girls who are a little older than them to heroic proportions and they downright lionise adulthood.
The other day our son said that he wants to grow up quickly so that he can have a beard, although for the time being, he mentioned that he is happy with the beard on his arms, this had me in peals of ungovernable laughter, for he was dead serious about the arm hairs actually being a beard of which he is so proud to have since none of his friends at school apparently have . So I decided not to shatter the illusion by actually telling him that almost everyone has arm hairs…and that hair on arms is not the same as a beard. I figured that with age he would work that one out for himself.
He seems to have this unshakable belief that the older one gets the better life becomes- didn’t we all at some point in our childhood also buy into that misconception? How long did it take for that illusion to shatter? Granted from a child’s point of view grown ups get to do whatever it is that they want to do, it looks like being a child is actually a limitation, albeit a short term limitation, which the child believes, will rise above by the sheer natural process of growth.
I guess I could say to our boy that actually adulthood is not always what it seems, especially from a child’s perspective, and also that many adults envy children’s freedom.
We long for that age of innocence where things just happened around us, and there was very little expectation from us, apart from our being happy, fancy-free and footloose. The child’s job is generally understood to be about playing, learning , and growing.
Were I to explain all of this to him though, I imagine that at this point, It is not likely , that he would understand that grown ups long to relive or revisit some of their childhood moments, and that they are actually keen to awaken their inner child at any possible opportunity.
There’s something about growing up that makes us wish we could capture, and bottle the age of innocence that children possess. That essence that they seem to take for granted and are so ready to shake off as quickly as one would shake off a hot coat on a summer’s day.
There’s the irony, as adults we wish we could be child-like and the children in turn ,wish they could be adults. That is just human nature it seems.