Thursday, 5 June 2014

Childhood

During the last twenty years I have been working with children I have often heard their desire to be adults... I sometimes think I hear that desire more and more often now... or maybe I am just more sensitive to it being said?

When I ask why they want to be an adult it usually comes with the desire to be able to do whatever they want - as for some reason they think that is what we adults have the luxury of having...
And yet I understand why they say that... there is so much that is controlled by adults - mostly for their sake (of course not all adults have that approach, and not all systems are as child friendly as they ought to be) - Adults have had the opportunity to gain so much more experience, and it is this experience that becomes the controlling factor... whether or not it is applied right is another story though..

Last weekend my son and I were talking about the whole adult/childhood phenomena and his desire not to be a child anymore because being a child is pathetic...

I answered him that I believe that childhood is a superpower

He looked at me with disbelief and challenged my superpower theory...

I continued... "the childhood superpower is imagination - most adults lose that superpower, they lose the ability to see the many possibilities that children can dream of, adults choose to follow what they have been told is right rather than discover and understand what is right. They forget to question everything, they forget to play. Being a child is the best time... the trick is to keep your childhood superpower with you when you become and adult and not to lose it..."


Childhood though is a confusing time - as a child there are so many possibilities but so little time is given to the children to make sense of the possibilities, to test them out, to dream... adults are always defining what childhood is, so no wonder that children want to be adults... to give themselves the power to define themselves?

But who is defining childhood? What is childhood? For I am quite sure that depending on where we are in the world the definition would be quite different... in Sweden it is humans under the age of 18 - but it cannot be quite that in USA - because 16 year olds are allowed to be given the death penalty - does that mean it is legally allowed to kill children in USA?
Children can have sex at the age of 16, but not watch x-rated movies until 18. They are criminally responsible in the UK at age 10 (12 in Scotland) but have to wait until 18 until they can vote. Complicated, isn't it?

I guess, as part of my crisis about what is a competent child, looking at childhood is a natural step. And that essentially I am not striving to work out what a competent child is I am trying to define child

Boredom is often given as an essential tool for childhood... which I question... I think it is time we need to give children, and at the same time not to be afraid of the phrase "I'm bored" as the child first learns how to manage their own time.
Boredom, real bordeom, is not something positive... it is what happens when children get too much time in an environment that is not rich with possibilities... children that have been in the school system where they are not being encouraged to be a child but are being stripped of their imagination so that they think like an "adult"... told not to trust in their explorational way of learning through play, but told the exact way that learning happens - which is as far removed from play as possible...
Why is play and imagination being stripped from us humans?
What is worse is that children have no power... so that often when they do use their imaginations to change their fate, to find play, they are being seen as a problem, they are asked to move on...
... the number of preschools in the city I have worked at where those living around the premises complain about the noise of play (not loud play, just normal sounds of play). The stories in newspapers of children playing on the streets being asked to move on... the signs everywhere "no ball play here". Play seems to be a problem for adults - why?

Is it because it is seen as a part of childhood and to become an adult we need to leave that behind?
Why is childhood being looked down in this way?
Why bother calling for creative and innovative adults to lead the way into the future when it is not valued in childhood?


Watch this film (thanks to Marc Armitage at Play for this link... came just at the right time)
This is Me: Article 31 and a child's right to play

Play is fundamental to learning and development... but I would like to push it further... it essential for ALL humans. We ALL need to play... we should not be stopping as adults, it should not be seen as something that belongs to childhood - it should be seen as something that belongs to humanity. We need to play throughout our entire lives, to never stop playing, to never stop using our imaginations... to keep our superpower and not leave it behind in order to be classed as an adult... we are doing ourselves a disservice.
Adulthood is about taking more responsibility - because we can see further, we understand more about how life works, and we need to help those that do not yet understand. It is not about stopping playing.

This week I answered a question about why I prefer interacting with children better than adults... and my answer was simple. Children accept me as who I am - with adults you always have to try and work out what their expectation is of you (even as a child interacting with an adult) and therefore there is the pressure to adjust to their thinking to feel accepted (and feeling seen and accepted is an important human need). Adults are not open to new perspectives in the same way as children are. Being with adults is much more limiting than with children in many senses. Of course it is always wonderful to meet up with other adults who have their inner-child intact - to play, to imagine to try and view things from all perspectives. Yes, I am an adult. I do adult things, I fall into the trap of being an adult too... but I am so aware of my inner child too and to allow my superpower to guide me too.

“Critics who treat 'adult' as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

Why is there a shame of being childish? Why is it valued so little? Especially when many of the qualities of childhood are the qualities desired as an adult. Those qualities that school bangs out of children in their need to educate them for the adult world.

I don't think I am going to find any answers today, I think I am going to find more questions and probably a feeling of despair.

I do feel happy that my 13 year old daughters still want to hold my hand, still want to play, still tell me they don't want to grow up... my 10 year old son is so dependant on play that he knows he is not ready to grow up... he just wants to be able to make all the decisions, but not to have any responsibility. I asked him about if he really wanted to be an adult... and he shook his head and said that maybe a teenager was the best age to be, more decision making - but when I pointed out that his teenage sisters also had more responsibility with their decision making he changed his mind... he wanted to be a preschooler when he could play all the time and didn't have to do lessons in school.
I hope my children keep their superpower.
I wish that all children kept their superpower... I wish more adults never lost theirs.
Can we retrieve childhood superpower if it is lost? Can adults learn to play again, learn to really imagine again?
I wish that all children had the time and space to use their superpower - I guess that is crucial to keeping it. We need more play, more time in environments rich in possibilities so that imagination can run rife and play becomes richer, deeper, and more complex... possibilties the children see - which mean adults need to listen to children to be able to hear about those possibilities that they no longer can see - how else can we provide environments rich in possibilties?


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