A hundred years ago or should I say as little as 30 years ago no one had a problem with a 7 year old being a 7 year old. They spent their mornings at school and the occasional afternoon playing an hour of sport. After this they were free. Free from instruction, training and meeting another’s expectations. Free to simply be…. To dream, climb, think, run and simply play. No one thought anything of them spending hours on end in the sand pit or up a tree. A card board box became a car or sailing ship and an old sheet anything from a cape to a tent.
Looking about one today however we must admit that for these little ones we have created a life full of care! A life so stressful that 7 year olds are having panic attacks. One could understand this if they were living in a war raging era, concerned each day for their safety. Instead these panics are taking place in classrooms and homes throughout the country. Based not on a fear of death but rather in a fear of failure! Children simply lack the confidence to be themselves, as frankly presenting themselves for who they naturally are is seen as not being good enough! By simply arriving and just being themselves, we as a society, keep telling them that they not good enough. They are too loud, too busy or too dreamy, they work too slowly or too fast. Try as they may to get it right, we doctor them with medication and counselling, in their little eyes they are not able to meet our expectations they as a person are a failure!
For parents the race is on. From conception patents begin fretting about what classical music to play in utero and soon after birth – no matter what the disposition of the child will be in future years – the child is on a waiting list for the best day care, top preschool, most successful primary school and so it goes. Their days determined, the course plotted and at all costs the child needs to make this thing work. Like a monkey upon a leash dancing before his music box we have these tiny tots dancing to a tune way beyond their years.
We bemoan the fact that children cannot entertain themselves and throw the blame at technology. However from the day they could walk, or before, we have been entertaining them. If not with some form of extra mural tutoring then with play dates and television. These on their own are not a bad idea but a 3 year old spending each afternoon at swimming, music, ballet, karate, gymnastic or maths lessons does leave little time to “stand and stare.”
According to James Hall a survey conducted amongst 1500 children in Sainsbury between 5 and 11 years of age revealed that their favourite summer pass times were not computer games, going on trips or watching movies. Instead they included playing in the park or in the garden making mud pie-making, climbing trees and feeding the ducks.
It was upon a break from his studies, whilst relaxing under a tree in a contemplative mood, thinking on the notion of gravitation that Newton saw an apple fall and hence solidify his thoughts on the workings of gravity. At the age of 16, whilst Einstein was imagining catching a sunbeam that he laid the foundations for his study of special relativity. At the age of only 15, Louis Braille – whilst on school vacation – and fiddling with his father’s awl in his leather shop, he devised the braille system which is still used throughout the world today.
In our pursuit of educational excellence and perfection are we in fact depriving our children of the one pure ingredient that grows thinkers, dreamers, creative and ultimately great men and women of the future?
So I ask yet again, “what is this life full of care if we have no time to stand and stare…?”