I am re-reading a children’s classic-Tom Sawyer. I am struck not only by the high level of autonomy and freedom the boys posses in this book, but also the great degree of self-confidence, trust and self-reliance. The reality of structure, supervision and control of kids lives has become, for the most part, the predominate experience. Between sports and homework and whatever extra-curricular activities kids are involved in- when is there time to play, to discover, to imagine, to dream? When do kids get to figure things out for themselves, rely on their own intelligence and resources, solve their own problems and make their own adventures? Childhood as we once knew it is fast becoming extinct, giving way to a highly controlled, structured and increasingly uniform experiences that most certainly do not cultivate independence and self-trust and often lead to conformity, obedience, and lack of confidence and inability to be self-reliant.
Adults of my generation- growing up in the 80′s have common remembrances of roaming the neighborhood, playing at our own games, riding our bicycles and having all manner of adventures. Adults were there in the background for assistance when needed but pretty much other wise, we were expected to entertain ourselves, make our own adventures, and solve our own problems. I think we’ve forgotten how to allow kids the spaciousness to have their own lives and to solve their own problems always jumping in with adult solutions. I remember that I organized my own birthday parties, complete with home-made pinatas with only the occasional adult assistance when I asked for it. What kind of unintentional messages are we sending by being ever-present, ever helpful and constantly designing and planning kids lives for them, leaving them little or nothing to figure out? There’s a sense of self-reliance and freedom that comes with being trusted to work out your own problems and to run your own life, while knowing there’s support and resources if you need it.
I could go on with this topic of the encroachment of adults into the lives and spheres of children in many different directions. For now I just want to plant these seeds for thought and let it be a beginning place for conversation and dialogue.
Share your thoughts and comments below~