Sunday, August 28, 2016

Obligations as "Privileges" for Our Children- The Problems Behind the Mentality Of Over Scheduled Children

The start of a new season comes with natural changes, growth, die off and perspective. It's part of the process of life. In Autumn most are preparing for school, extracurriculars and signing up for as many possible "privileges" for our children. In moderation, all of these things can be beneficial. But it's the interesting mentality behind most obligations that could be challenged. I often hear parents say that they see these sign ups as privileges. Indeed they are. But so are water, food, shelter and clothing. Yet, it would be ridiculous if we set ourselves up with constant food simply because it was a privilege. That kind of reasoning sets the stage for all sorts of excess and even a hidden type of guilt choosing, over consumption and not making room for others. Out of the belief in privilege we mistakenly think if we do not sign our kids up, then we are NOT setting our kids up for a good future, making them into whole beings, or giving them "enough" love. We mistakenly equate discipline and skill as love. Of course these are important stepping stones to wholeness but we have over emphasized them because our culture is all about being privileged. It's about finding that perfect job that makes a soul sing and living the life of dreams. But is that really what we want for our children? Deep down is that what our children wish from us?

We must deconstruct our choices and mentalities. Sometimes we think we are going against the crowd when really we are another form of baying sheep. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being sheep either. In moderation we need some sheep. Just not an entire society full of them as the endgame goal. Why are privileges "privileges" in the first place? What does this mean in our lives? Why do we believe we need to cash in on most of them? Is there another way to encounter the same value without exhausting our time, resources and children? Can our children be loved simply BY being? Can they learn love and other valuable attributes without joining a sporting event, music lesson, second language ect? Can they not learn organically themselves based on their interest with us supervising discipline when absolutely needed? Should we not be a facilitator instead of controller of our children's desires and gifts along with challenges and needs? Oh but they must be equipped with the skills to find the best career to enjoy! What about simply teaching them to enjoy everything...including the mundane and mediocre? The life lived in the ordinary and what beauty to be found! What about the value of boredom as a step into creativity?

A privilege by definition is a right, immunity or advantage granted to a certain people group. Why are we holding this up as something to cash in on? Many atrocities, judgements and prejudices are committed in the name of privilege. Ask any minority group. There are many advantages too of course, but there are also valuable lessons to be had in not being privileged.

There are hard knock rules of life that give underprivileged children the grit to get by in a harsh and sometimes unfair world. Not that privileges are bad within themselves. Each of us have privileges that contribute to our glittered viewpoints. I am writing from a place of privilege because I make most of my own choices, have my own autonomy and am middle class. On the flip side I know what it is like to not be in the people group who have the advantage culturally to succeed. I also know what living with an impairment is like. In that regard I have learned valuable lessons about BEING. The tough questions are ever present. This has damaged me and served me equally. I am glad that my childhood was not spent focusing on my abilities. While there were aspects of that, most of my childhood was spent with free time, responsibility within that time, and allowance OF time. The part that was focused on my abilities I now receive therapy for.

What does it mean to have a disability in a world that prizes ability? A world where slogans for those who are different even include the words "see the ability." Well intentioned and true in some of their worded merit, but limiting within themselves. People should be seen for whom they are; a unique package of beauty and struggle, strength and weakness. Instead we should just see beyond. Beyond package, beyond words, beyond ability, beyond mind into the soul...the genuine, innocence and soul that IS. My particular slogan is supposed to be a puzzle piece. Something most of the autistic community takes issue with but those who are parents of the Autistics and those even trying to help... promote. That is usually how it goes. We don't want to be seen as a fascinating puzzle. We just ARE. Of course there is education and support to go along with that but it first comes from a place of love. Slogans, no matter how well meaning, only further complicate the issue. They veil it with more misunderstanding and cloak US with further stigma while trying to free us. It's ironic and unfortunate. On a larger scale it also factors in to what we choose for our children in the first place. Education, improvements, and preparation. What are we preparing for? Another cog in the wheel of the work force? Another life like so many of our peers that are unsatisfied, constantly searching, scared and exhausted? It's one thing if they join the workforce because they have learned that any life is of value. It's completely another to try to rise in it because they think that it GIVES value. There is a difference.

I will be happy if my children work at Subway their entire lives and enjoy their down time, learn to manage their money so that they can live within their means and validate all of their own experience...the messy and neat. If they struggle with depression because they are prone to it but still see that in that they ARE, it matters. If they need to go on disability because they can not fit into culture, THEY STILL ARE. They still give and they are still valued. If they are bored, that they learn how to give time to find creativity. I will also be happy if they decide to be a lawyer because they love helping people and they love using money wisely and enjoying it. If they prefer to spend hours alone working at a job because it is what comes naturally to them, so be it. What a person really desires they will find a way to do, no matter most of the odds. No matter what "privileges" of are joined or not. What exactly are we hoping for them to achieve?

Before we sign our children up for another music lesson or sporting event we should ask ourselves a few crucial questions. Why are we doing this? What does it mean for US? What does it mean to them? Where in our story did we get this ingrained belief? Even if it is a good belief, could there be a question or caution within it? Why is this particular music lesson (or insert event here) important? Can our children learn the same values without putting out that money and time? Can we personally vouch for that valuable resource of money and time? Are we considering our exhaustion, borrowing money, borrowing time, and other hindrances to society as part of the equation just as equally as we are considering the benefits? Are we buying into these societal norms because we believe in research, funded by programs that promote and make money off of these events? Because they give jobs and make our society go round so we become part of the cycle because everyone else is?  Just because we take a different perspective on it, however healthy, doesn't meant that we might not need to step back and question.

At the end of the day we will all make different decisions. I don't want mini robots of me because I value individuality and freedom. Plus I secretly enjoy aspects of the crazy sign up sheets... because it means other people are super busy in their lives and less likely to be in mine. Yes, I benefit from it too. I also love that after school times are often full of parents running around which means life is more likely to be quiet for my children to explore. I value that because I am a quiet soul. I realize for others who have a extroverted souls or a heart for services may want to meet and greet as many people as possible. For those children, it actually may be important to be in a few of these obligations/privileges. But those children are certainly not the norm we portray them to be. A busy society means less likely to get into trouble, to be rebellious, to THINK, to be more creative and thus to be more effective. If effectiveness is a all means...but most people want more for their children.

At the end of the day, ALL children want to know they are worthy and loved. This will be a large contributing factor in regards to content, whole adults. Most parents want their children to feel love and thus pick a lot of misplaced ideas of what this means instead of giving the children what is most fleeting to them- TIME. Childhood is only a quarter of an average human life. They have plenty of time to be effective adults and plenty of time to learn. In fact, when their brains have matured they will learn the lessons of discipline whether through hard knocks or fantastic support...but the children who have love do have an advantage and indeed a privilege worth it all. The children who do not, also have the possibility to succeed despite the odds and validate their own existence.

Each child can learn they are worthy because they exist. Not because they know two languages, play the cello, or can pirouette. Oh but these things give them more to enjoy. Really? So a child who twirls clumsily is less happy and aware than a child who can ecarte? Are they more passionate simply because we define these art forms as passionate? Are they more driven because our perceptions of ballet inform us that obviously a person who performs in ballet lessons has to be driven and disciplined? Yes, yes there is something to be said for the love of ballet/dance/ ect.. I do know dancers who chose ballet because they LOVED it, not because their parents or society valued it. In them, the spark is real. I am picking on ballet simply because it is one of the popular choices along with certain sports, the violin and second languages. Why? Because in previous studies these have been proven to enhance life. But we forget that many other aspects of being can achieve the same effect if we only open our inner eyes. Also, ballet, the cello/violin, second languages, basketball/hockey/soccer, ect. whether we want to admit it or not, are associated with money, privilege, status, sophistication, success and ease in life. What person wouldn't be tempted by that future package for their children?

 Our children should be allowed to pursue what they are passionate about. Yes, there are opportunities we can give them to explore options but how many parents force their children to continue piano because they believe one day their kids will be grateful? Maybe they will, but there would be other, just as beautiful skills or take it further (no skills but whom they are) that they would also be grateful for. Time itself, love or the merit of freedom and exploration, among them.

My point is any child will turn into an adult who pursues excellence in whatever they deem, whether it's waking up with a grateful attitude, enjoying the friends in their lives, or editing a book or whatever it is, if they are given sufficient time to value time itself, they will always value LIFE. It's not the action I take issue with. It's the age at which we introduce these things, the time and money debt we go into FOR them, and the ingrained beliefs behind them spurred by fear we don't even recognize we have. That niggling voice that says, "Will my child survive?" "Will they have what it takes?" "Will they 'succeed'?" "Will they be happy?"

Why don't we just allow what IS now. Give them basic skills and opportunities in daily life for problem solving and love of life? The truth is they may not make it into adulthood despite our best efforts. Or the most well balanced, educated child can still turn into an unaccomplished, unhappy adult. A babe who had a disability will STILL have a disability  in what culture is in majority, but that does not mean they are not worthy. We do not have to make up for what the world sees as lack. Because it's not true. We can rest in that perspective. We need to avoid marginalizing of course, but we also need to allow WHOM a person IS. There is a balance to strike between facilitating challenge and promoting self acceptance. We simply have to perceive another way and show that by acknowledging the difference, validating it, working around what needs to be to survive but also allowing what IS.

Will my children be better because I pick this mentality? Nope. They will have their own struggles and successes. Also life happens and is unpredictable...who knows about their future. But right now, they ARE and that matters. Letting go of outcomes but embracing the advantages when they happen too matters. Plus, it's easier for my husband and I to give them time when we are not running around. Part of our life enjoyment is loving the time with our kids. So it is also serving us.

It's good to value a privilege. It's also good to have a few obligations for the sake of a successful society. But there are many good things we do not have to continually participate in. What matters is what we choose in the end. Mostly, WHY we choose what we do. Sign up the kiddos for some fun. But even if they are asking for something, it does not mean they need to do it. My children have asked to participate in one particular event for years. But we can't afford it in our lives thus I have given them other privileges or opportunities that give the same attributes of growth within our own means and level. Each time I tell them no their faces fall for a bit, and they still ask at times, but they are given reasons and alternatives...I have heard that people are concerned that maybe I am allowing them to miss out on being a world class star in that form. So what? In reality, is a world class star happier? Maybe because they are doing something they love, but can someone love their ordinary bliss just as much? Deconstruct it further... Your own conclusions will lead your heart home. It may look differently from my may still choose the violin, the ballet, the soccer or the language lessons...hopefully not all at once, but that is your choice. Just ask yourself why, why, why? My son loves languages for the love of them and engages on his app. Maybe he will be fluent one day, maybe he will only know a few words, maybe he will forget them all. If our world suddenly switches to a different language he does not know, I am not worried. He will learn it. Life may be tougher because he doesn't know it for awhile, but the beauty about humans is we adapt. I want him to savour whatever IS. What is it you want for your children deep down?

Song choices: Bloody well right- Supertramp. Follow your Arrow- Kacey Musgraves


Ashe said...

My dad's philosophy was "they're only young once, let 'em be kids". To my delight, that meant playing outside, drawing, or reading as much as I wanted after school and chores were done. Likely I'll be raising my kids the same way. If mine show an interest in an extra curricular activity, I'll see what I can do to let them enjoy it since I grew up under the same offer, but I have no interest in packing them off all year long to who-knows-where. I've known parents who did that because they were indeed flaunting their status, others who did it because they didn't have the patience to put up with their own offspring, and then of course the handful whose kids just ate that stuff up.

One of the best skills any parent can give their kid is HOW to learn. There is a ton of information out there. Ain't no way one noggin can hold all o' that! If you can teach a kid how to dig up what they need to know and then how to learn it in a way that fits best with their learning style, there will probably be very little they can't tackle. Of all the things my mom taught me when I was homeschooled, that has been the one thing that has been the most useful and I've ended up using the most. It's also made me a bit invaluable in various social and work circles since I seem to be the unofficial Finder Of Things now. The mandatory memorization of knowing the way a paramecium eats and reproduces or the formula for counting neutrons and electrons, however, has yet to help me. :P

S said...

Hello, I really loved reading this. We think on the same lines ! A child may grow up and become an adult and choose what they want to but as children, they are influenced and conditioned by the society without their knowledge. So, childhood is the time when we have to monitor these influences. Unlike animals, children of humans are influenced by a lot of "false" perspectives. Animals live more or less a pure life, uninfluenced by either "status", "money", or "fear of judgment" and "comparison". But humans construct a set of rules,norms and many such things and tries to fit into them. Not only that, they try to force children into these roles. Therefore, children lose this "pure" quality like animals,birds or plants.
But if you see or go back to our past into the lives of our ancestors (when they were child ) you will see this "pure" quality in them and they retained this quality even when they became adult /old. By pure quality, I mean "naturalness". Man is a part of nature yet they are losing their natural qualities.
If a child spends time with nature, reading a book by nature or cook natural ingredients, that child/adult is seen as less of an achiever compared to a person who gets high grades in school and learns to play violin or soccer. These ( standards, guidelines,gradings of an achievement oriented society ) are socially constructed norms which everyone is trying to follow blindly. Not only that, " naturalness (as preached/followed by our ancestors) is now looked down upon. Their "quiet time" is nowadays termed as "lazy", Solitude is termed as "strange behavior", and simplicity/wanting less in life is termed as "not pushing yourself hard enough" or "not discovering your potential".
The old way of life is thus vanishing and people who think like me/you are considered outdated.
What we need is more acceptance of all types of life style as long as one is comfortable in it and are not forced. But nowadays, certain kinds of lifestyle is seen as more"desirable" and "valuable" over others. People are discouraged from pursuing what they really want to. Everybody is joining the rat race in search of happiness. it is not only the extroverts, introverts too are joining it. I have an introverted friend who thinks money and a fast life can bring her happiness. She is working very hard towards such a life also. Yet, she is frustrated all the time and deeply unhappy but she is in denial. So, it is about soul searching, breaking of illusions, experimenting and being open to a lot of different ideas/lifestyles/choices....and finally find out what works for us and our children.

Kmarie said...

Ashe: Your father was wise and I love your philosophy too! You have an excellent point on the skill for HOW to learn. That encompasses so much! I think there are so many different ways to lead a life and all can be good but its how we approach them and with what mentality and deeper hidden goals scrutinized. I love your thoughts!

S: We do think along the same lines! Yes monitoring the influences is SOOOOOOO important. Yes the rules and norms become a fitting block thing instead of a stepping stone. I loved the point about the pure like quality. My kids have that due to the lack of influences outside our world and its lovely. They barely ever act out and enjoy life because of this. These standards are socially constructed and we should de construct them and ask ourselves why... Yup I am considered outdated or old skool or just delusional but I feel enlightened and I love all things life. We def need more acceptance and the rat race is not going to be that place.
Love all your points!

Thank you both for contributing and giving more to the conversation:)