The adage featured for today’s FANDANGO’S FEBRUARY EXPRESSIONS is:
Children should be seen and not heard
Well, this adage seems very dated, doesn’t it! I am glad I did not grow up in that kind of environment. My parents encouraged us to engage in conversations with other adults and to express ourselves. I remember Dad prompting his customers to ask me questions, I would feel so shy about answering. But it was good for me.
However there was a balance. My parents also trained us to be polite, and to listen respectfully to others. They cultivated in us remarkable graciousness of speech, that has served me well in every job I have had. Many people have commented about the tact and diplomacy I employ with even the most absurd of characters. That’s all because my folks nurtured within me an inner security that comes with peace of mind and good heart,, and extraordinary empathy for those who seem to lack control of what comes out of their mouths.
I have never had any of my own children. (I lost my little apricot of course at eleven weeks.) I admire my parents enormously for the way they trained us and the example they set.
Currently, there are a lot of little ones in our family, who so far seem delightful. I love that they have their own personalities. Recently I saw how they are individually developing beautiful qualities and using their own initiative to show kindness to others. They are flourishing, and I am sure that is due to their parents teaching them about the joy that comes with giving. Our whole family mindset is to praise and encourage kindness, sharing and giving. It’s lovely that that mentality is being passed to the younger generation and they are turning out to be so gorgeous!
Although I have never had children of my own, I have observed children. Some children seem shy and quiet. It can take great effort to encourage them to express themselves. Whereas other children walk around with such swagger, bossing their parents around, even calling their parents stupid.
Although I would not like to see any child being a nervous wreck, scared to speak up, neither is it healthy to see children who behave like mini-narcissists, trying to call all the shots and demanding attention from everyone. There is a balance. Children and adults should be allowed to speak up, but should also develop the ability to respectfully listen to others and accord them dignity.
Although, I have never been a parent, I have observed other parents. Some of whom have frankly terrified me, screaming abusively at their children in public, shaking them, making threats of what they would do once they reached home. I dread to imagine what might go on at home. Really scary stuff.
The way one woman handled her child upset me so much, I asked if her daughter might be willing to join our team of volunteers. She replied that her daughter was a very badly behaved girl, she called her daughter wicked. Well, that afternoon, while mother sat watching, the little girl worked with our team, helping visitors by fetching drinks and biscuits, cleaning up spills, handing out napkins, collecting rubbish. She was a delight. She loved being helpful and rushed round hugging everyone thanking us for letting her help the team.
A couple of us sat down and chatted with her mum about what was going on. Something was not right. We were careful because we did not know the full story of their family relationships, but the woman was amazed at how her daughter had thrived when being busy with a role that made her feel good about herself.
A year later, I saw that same mother and daughter. The little girl was thrilled to see us. There was a tiny baby boy with them too. The mother told us more this time about the atmosphere at home. Since we last saw them, her husband had been sent to prison after an act of domestic violence. She looked like a different woman. Her little girl had been of great support. She took pride in washing dishes and helping out with all sorts of housework. Both of them looked so very different from the way they did a year before. They looked much happier and healthier.
Ultimately parents have the responsibility to teach their children. Schools may supply all sorts of information to children, but there is a whole host of training that schools will not provide. Before we ever started school, my parents were training us to engage in conversations with others, to think about questions and answer them in our own words, to express our feelings and to listen as others told us their views.
As children we were seen by others and heard by others. We certainly did have our moments. I am sure at times, we must have tested our parents’ patience. However, overall I think they were delighted with the way we followed through on the training they had given us.
As children, we sometimes had a black and white view of the world. I remember every time we saw someone smoking, we would run up to them and start coughing wildly and pretending we were choking! My parents did not teach us that! I must admit, sometimes I still make a point of doing that as an adult! Naughty Caramel! Well, I still see smoking as the willful poisoning of one’s body.
But there were other areas in which we realized it was much harder to see black and white. We began to encounter the shades of right and wrong. Often children do feel passionately about subjects such as pollution, immigration, taxes and military conflicts.
If you ask most children (unless their parents have told them what to think instead of how to think) they would probably think radical and immediate changes to curb pollution are urgently needed, that the world should be one big happy family without borders and walls, that rich people should give up more of their money to help the poorer, and that human violence is wrong. And you know what, they are right.
We have seen children shout up and ask “Why is this happening?” Why are we spewing out carbon? Why are we burning up fossil fuels? Why is there so much non-recyclable packaging? Why are we telling people who are desperate that they cannot come and live and work here? Why are rich people growing richer and still, in this day and age, almost a billion people go to bed hungry every single day because they cannot scrape enough to make sure they and their families are well-nourished? Why are weapons of mass destruction in existence?
Sometimes adults criticise children who demand answers to these questions. Could it be that those adults who do so, no longer know how to think outside the box? Have they become boxed-in puppets of a global commercial system that always wants more, and wants to protect what it has and not share it with others? Is it possible that they cannot see a way to address important issues without having to give up some of their material comforts?
They bury their heads in the sand because the problems of pollution, immigration, economic extremes and threats to security are so huge, they don’t have real answers. Ask a child, the answers they come up with may surprise you! They may seem pretty black and white, pretty radical, but perhaps that’s because the truth is: this world needs a drastic clean sweep!
May our human family, adults and children alike, be seen and be heard and be sure they are valuable. May all enjoy life on earth. May all of us breathe in clean air and drink clean water. May all have a safe place to live and be able to obtain enough nutrition to keep us healthy. May we live without fear of violence and crime or diseases.
This was my response to today’s FANDANGO’S FEBRUARY EXPRESSIONS: