Child 1

“At my age,” the 9-year-old said to me in all seriousness, “I just feel like The Jungle Book is a little silly and childish.”   Ten minutes prior to this statement I had heard him complaining to a girl his age that his mother hadn’t paid his cell phone bill, speaking as if he was always having to check up on her.  The little girl was just as serious as she told him it wasn’t his parents’ job to pay for everything, explaining how much she had saved to get her hair done.  I felt for a moment like I was watching children parody their parents like some kind of juvenile Vaudeville act, but they weren’t, and as that boy looked at me like I was being ridiculous to even suggest cartoons to a person his age I was immediately saddened by what’s happening to the current generation of children.

When I look at children I see two things that stand out.  The first is an amazing culture of unschooling, home schooling, alternative teaching, and children encouraged to do what children do naturally.  They are encouraged to play, to touch, to create, and to use their imaginations.  These are the thinkers and the inventors of tomorrow.  These children will be what pulls us out of the mire someday, because I believe the only thing that will save us as a society is something new, something “outside the box”.  These children, as adults, will be less concerned about the “shoulds” that repeatedly dig our society deeper into the hole.  Instead they will focus on the “cans”, because these children have not been told what their lives “should” look like, only what they “can” if they dare to go after dreams and find ways to make those dreams realities.  These children will be adults who have been given the resources to make their own decisions and the tools to process their emotions.  They are learning to communicate and grow from their mistakes.

The second thing I see scares me a little bit.  I see children with cell phones and tablets who don’t know how to jump rope.  I see children who already believe that “make-believe” is something to eschew for more mature pursuits.  I see children who will someday know the formulas and the codes but never anything else.  I see libraries full of stereo instructions but no fairy tales.  I see children who will never be taught to have a frivolous outlet growing into adults who have no way to release stress or frustration in a healthy manner.  I see decades of the same mistakes being repeated because no one can think of another way of doing things.  These children will be brilliant, able to memorize the patterns and the steps, but they will be stunted when it comes to problem solving and fresh ideas.  They may be self sufficient at a younger age, but they will be emotionally under-developed or possibly emotionally blocked altogether because of the belief that emotions and passion are childish.  They will be able to analyse anything, but feel nothing.  They will not be able to handle change, failure, people who don’t think or act the way they do.  They will have excellent decision making skills and consequence comprehension, but they will not actually be able to think original thoughts.  What we are witnessing is the destruction of imagination on an extremely large scale.

What remains to be seen is whether or not there is enough balance to keep the world spinning once these children are all grown up.  Will there be a place in it for everyone, and will there be enough of a grey area to not have the two extremes constantly at a stalemate?

Hubby and I have had countless discussions about this. While I agree that our children need to learn how to cope with hardship I believe that it’s just as important for them to learn to let loose a little and not take themselves too seriously.  Parents?  Teachers?  What are your thoughts?