There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter,
the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.
I have a secret dream that all parents and educators will put the above quote on their refrigerators to remind themselves what childhood should not only look like — but FEEL like. (Um, well I guess the cat is out of the bag now!) I am not totally naive or going through life with rose colored glasses, but I do think that it is high-time the pendulum swung back the other way on childhood.
I just re-read a great article, Lost in the Meritocracy, by Walter Kirn and was once again struck by just how wrong so much of childhood is these days. In our “quest for the best,” our view of what’s best has become warped and twisted, and incredibly shallow. It might look good on paper and even open a door or two, but are they really doors that we should be aspiring to, or want for our children? Should achievement trump happiness and well-being? Not in my world.
I have written about this notion of the “Super Kid” before. We have all seen them — in classrooms or sometimes on TV, being held-up as the ideal child. Over-achievers by age six. Children with adult vocabularies and sensibilities, often lacking the ability to connect with their own peer group, or so fearful of getting dirty or doing anything wrong they are stuck almost immobile in uncontrolled or unknown situations. Often, the “success” of these children send parents into panic mode, creating a drive to outdo or out-pace that is visited upon children.
I find it so offensive — whether it is motivated by good intentions or not. On the part of the parents who try to create them — pushing kids to excel at everything or perseverating on one identified skill that must be mastered. And on the part of education and enrichment programs that promise parents ivy-league success by 4th grade and drive young minds and hearts to near exhaustion. The adulteration of childhood is simply not OK. Not only does it rob children of their right to childhood, but it robs adults of the joy of offering true guidance, warmth, and compassion. It’s a lose-lose situation.
So, I have a proposal. Let’s redefine the Super Kid. Let’s start with a clean slate and give the kids a break.
The NEW and improved Super Kid:
- Laughs and giggles daily more times than he/she can count;
- Is in the process of learning about who they are and what they like, versus letting others define them;
- Plays for play’s sake;
- LOVES to learn;
- Stands-up for a friend;
- Is not afraid to get dirty;
- Is curious, sometimes loud, and capable of dreaming big;
- Understands that it’s OK to make mistakes;
- Learns that it’s OK not to get everything you want; and
- Understands that their only job in life is BEING A KID.
That, my friend, sounds like a Super Kid to me. One that has time to enjoy being a child and will arrive at adulthood with a sense of self, a capacity for happiness, and the keys to a truly bright future of their choosing.
See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru