First, my wishes for children. I wish they could grow according to their natural pace, sleep when sleepy, eat when hungry, cry when upset, play and explore without being unnecessarily interrupted. I wish them to be allowed to grow and blossom as each was meant to be and not molded or shoved into some mode of faddism that confines like a violin case.
I wish children would nor have to perform for their parents, sit up when ready for rolling, or walk when ready for crawling. You know, a child can be pushed to do these things, but may not be physiologically really ready. In our culture, we push to attain these states faster than they should be reached.
I wish children would not have to reassure parents of their effectiveness. They should not have to smile when frustrated or clap their hands when sleepy. They should not be ping pong balls between parents, nor experimental subjects of toy manufacturers, cereal makers, or new fads and theories in child care.
Please, parents, the next holiday season, don’t succumb to the pressure of buying expensive, complex toys designed to be used certain ways. They rarely give children opportunities to explore and use them in their own way. Toys designed to entertain create passive onlookers and future television addicts, rather than curious, actively learning children. Pressures from commercials are especially strong at the holiday time of year. Think of the many children who are lost and bored unless they are entertained, and who keep asking, “What shall I do now?”
For parents I wish a lot of things, too. I wish they would feel secure, but not rigid. I want them to be accepting, but able to set limits; available, but not intrusive, and patient, but true to themselves. They need to be realistic, but consistent in their expectations, having the wisdom to resist new fads. I hope they can achieve a balance in giving quality time to their children and to themselves and achieve a state of self-respect and equal respect for their children.
I have a special wish for fathers, too. I wish that fathers could assume a new role of fatherhood based on human relationship rather than believing that being warm and gentle is not manly, or that a father is expected to be tough. They need not throw children into the air, nor blow cigarette smoke in their faces (Yes, I have seen this done “playfully.”) Roughhousing not only scares babies, but sometimes causes brain damage. What I’m saying is that playful pummeling is okay, as long as it’s not forced by the father and hard on the child. I would like fathers not to be afraid to be their own drummers, but to be themselves and to know that just because they are men, they need not be “macho.” They can be tender and soothing and quiet and still be men.
Above all else, I wish that we not lose sight of laughter. In spite of all the pain we might see and feel, we need to maintain our sense of humor. People who take life too seriously are terrible to live with!
Educaring® 7 (1), Winter, 1986.