My mother-in-law gave me this wonderful thought that has helped me ever since in my decision-making about my kids: She said, “I thought having my little kids at home with me would be the long part of my life.” In other words, those early years go by quickly and then they are gone.
Sometimes I hear parents say, “If I can do it, he can do it,” as though their child has the same capacity for experience, understanding and movement as an adult. It seems to be a pretty common thought in American society when we look around.
Very young children are exposed to intense violence on the news because some adult thinks they need to “understand what is going on in the ‘real world'”. Children do not have the capacity to understand the “real world”, but they do have the capacity to be frightened by it.
Often kids are watching media with their enthusiastic parents as though it is imperative that a 7-year-old take in a show for adults or the nostalgia of a parent’s favorite movie series long before a child’s mind can parse what is real and what is fantasy. Kids may think a parent’s fav film is super cool but is it because the parent thinks it is super cool and children love their parents? Is it appropriate content for their young minds? Just because a marketer thinks a young kid should love something doesn’t make it appropriate. It means there is money there. Don’t lose sight of your family’s well-being to a corporate income stream.
The way children, particularly those under nine, experience the world is very different from the way adults do. It is easy to forget as we zoom through our day. Many children are also quite capable of adapting to what they are exposed to. Convenient for parents, but is it actually good for a child’s own well-being?
Parents, couldn’t we just play outside with them instead?
Rudolf Steiner, in the collection of lectures known as The Kingdom of Childhood, talks about a child as a whole-sense organ. “You must take this quite literally: whole sense-organ. The child during the first seven years is really completely and wholly an eye.”
In other words, children take in their environment: sound, taste, sight, smells, touch, with their whole bodies. They FEEL whatever they are experiencing way more than an adult does. When someone gets shot in a movie, maybe you see it as your hero winning the moment or as moving the plot forward, but your young child experiences that shot through his whole body. He experience arguments and anger, smiles and hugs the same way too – with his whole body. Children are not capable of separating themselves from their environment. They learn through experiencing the world. What are they experiencing?
This is no small thing. Think about it. Watch a child and witness this whole-body-experiencing-of-the-world phenomenon in action next time she is eating ice cream. It can be messy.
Children grow up soon enough with social studies papers to research and write, complex math homework, money to make, bosses to answer to, love relationships and all the rest of the world of adulting. For now, let them be little, stay dreamy, use their imaginations and play outside. They’ll do all the intellectual stuff better if you let them be little and preserve their innocence now.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein.
I write every April Eight Songs & Stories Podcast with these three ideas at the fore: innocent, musical, delight. Nothing gets past that litmus test because it is the very foundation of what I’m doing here. I do believe in childhood as a kingdom of imagination and joy to be protected like a fortress. That’s what that crown at the top of the page is all about. Did you think it was a fairy crown? Well, use your imagination. Maybe, just maybe, it is. 😉