This post is going to make me sound really old-fashioned. Perhaps, just old.
I work with kids everyday, and even if I’m barely 10 years older than some of them, I see a stark difference between their realities and mine. While my students are hardly a conclusive sample size, I’ve observed a discrepancy between what I would expect from children, and what I actually see.
I should mention that my students are relatively privileged: at the very least, their parents care deeply about their education and have demonstrable desires for their success. But every time I sit down to work with each student, I can’t help but feel that there’s something almost missing about them.
This inadequacy is hardly their fault, but its glaring presence troubles me. Many of my students aren’t as creative as I remember being, as a child. They have a hard time coming up with their own stories, opinions, and perspectives. There’s an insolence that– I wonder– appears related to the prevalence of technology. Parents look at phones much more often now than they ever did when I was 10 years old. Perhaps conversations at the table dwindle because everyone has their own device.
On top of that, my students are busy. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of my time spacing out and doing nothing in particular. I drew pictures, I wrote stories, I played outside. Yes, I also played piano, took dance lessons and volunteered, but my “work” day wasn’t 12 hours long. Now I begin tutoring with some of my students as they’re rushing in from ballet or soccer– still leotard-clad or soccer-cleat-shod.
I can’t speak to how Aaron and I will be as parents– the choices we’ll make, the challenges we’ll face. But I do know that there’s a sweet, innocent, and colorful childhood that I still hold in my mind as the ideal. I want our children to know that season before delving into the woes of our world and being a part of healing it. I want them to experience joy at its purest before joining us in the sorrow of adulthood and the small increments of victory we seek. As children, I hope they’ll have less to win, and more to simply be.
10 Simple Things I Want For My Kids
1) Friends nearby who come over unannounced.
2) A patch of dirt to dig and cultivate.
3) Scraps and materials for making toys and creating art.
4) A place at the table where they must engage and express.
5) Age-appropriate work that makes them feel valued.
6) Stories to hear and stories to tell.
7) Opportunities to visit new places, nearby or far away.
8) Family members and mentors to lead them.
9) Possessions to call their own and people to share them with.
10) Confidence in the truth that they matter, their community matters, and we all matter.
Perhaps I’m nostalgic for a time in human history that never really existed, but I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that these things are not so much purchased as cultivated. And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to raise our children with likeminded people who want the same thing for their kids.