Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musings About Childhood, Past and Present

I find myself defending early childhood lately, at least in my own mind. Children are exposed to letters, sounds, numbers, computer learning games, learning videos, and learning toys much earlier than they were 30 or 100 years ago. As the boys and I immerse ourselves in the 1800's through historical novels, I'm thinking about modern parenting and how we assume it's always been this way.

In the past young children lived outside a great deal. They pretended, they watched seasons change, they collected samples of God's glory, they designed and built toys from scratch, they swam and fished and ran around exploring. At what age they started school was variable, depending on family farm needs. No one shook their finger at a child--or at the child's parents--if he began reading at 8 or 9 years old instead of 6 years old. In the old one-room school houses many different levels were the rule.

When children were old enough they worked hard for the family. They did their share and they learned to value hard work. They experienced within themselves the fruits of their labor. Confidence grew. Pride in workmanship grew. And minds expanded too, as physical work and mental exertion worked together to fashion a God-designed equilibrium.

The mass shooters in our country had a sense of entitlement mixed with a sense of injustice, experts say. Some were Goth and all were isolated, except for some fringe friends. When in our country did friends become so important to a child's self concept? Why must families be so isolated from one another and what about siblings and their value in a child's life? Children have fewer siblings than in prior eras, and is that really a good thing? Smaller families mean less work and more me-time and more money. But is any of that really better? Who's it better for?

Why would God give us nuclear families if he thought another design was better? A nuclear family forms a solid heart and conscience. A nuclear family needs time together to be what God designed.

I think about how life for children has changed and I wonder if the shooters had too much free time on their hands, for one thing? Yes, they were evil and I'm not making excuses for them. There are no excuses when so many mothers and grandmothers will cry themselves to sleep for months and years from a broken heart. How do you get over your young child knowing only terror in the last minutes of her life? It's a horror you carry to the grave.

Most of the shooters were well off financially and played a lot with electronics...not that electronics is the culprit, either. Many were brilliant and they all lacked empathy.

I'm grieving for our country and thinking on screen.

And I wonder, are kids better off now that hard labor is absent from their lives? Are they better off that Mom and Dad do most of the work now, rather than children pulling their weight by 9 or 10 years old? Are they better off now that we put schooling and extra-curricular activities above all else?

We read novels depicting boys hunting and marking wild hogs by cutting their ears, and planting fields by themselves and trapping animals without help, by 11 or 13 years old. We've taken danger and excitement out of boys' lives...I think to their detriment. The drives that a boy naturally has, we've taken away from them. They're liked caged animals in our classrooms and we're seeing boys enter college at lower rates than girls.

1800's...where is your wisdom? Where is your God-centered society? What have we done to ourselves and how can we backtrack now?

I watch my Mary struggle to form lower-case letters, in her kinder year. And I remember the kinder teachers next door to my first-grade classroom telling me they wish the district could save penmanship until first grade, because it's too much a struggle for many kinders.

Mary's been a champ with capitals for a long while, but most of the lowers begin at the dotted line. There are so many of them that it's hard to remember which direction to begin with and how far some go under the bottom line, like the g and the j and y.

We both get frustrated, though I know how to hid it. Sometimes it feels like it will never become automatic.

I've let my Mary explore and pretend and be a child and I only regret it when I think someone is comparing her to today's skewed standards. Then I question myself and I hate that self-questioning. I know it's grabbing the world's lens instead of His. I want to see through the only lens that matters. The lens of Life.

The boys were reading pretty well by six, though Peter still struggled with sight words at that age. Mary's still a very beginning reader and why do I wonder at that? She's just a little girl of six and I'm wondering why she isn't where her brothers were?

I want to beat myself with a stick when my thoughts turn there, because she's her own person and I have no doubts about her intellect. When others notice she's not a proficient reader yet, they probably question this homeschooling thing. When you homeschool people are always ready to pounce on your kids' progress, at least in their own heads if not to your face...even your own family.

The Holy Spirit has His way with me when my thoughts turn thus. Their hearts, he tells me. Their hearts need me and you make sure you're not doing too much laundry and sweeping. Don't neglect Me, he warns . The other things? They'll come and I'll assure that.

Childhood is not a race, He reminds, and you'll know when to pile on the responsibility and the expectations. I'll let you know what pace I want you to follow, if you just put me first.

I think of women and how things have changed for us. In droves we wanted more choice, more freedom, fewer children, more money, more things. We gave our children over to other caregivers and told ourselves they would be okay. And when it's not all day, they're probably just fine, I agree.

We're distracted by electronics and as caregivers we're dissatisfied with chores and repetitive work. Didn't God design work as a life for Adam and Eve, after the fall? Work keeps us out of trouble, I think? And when we do physical labor we can hear the Lord's voice in our ear? And maybe, just maybe, we sin less while we work? Something to think about the next time the laundry mountain climbs large and the floor you just mopped feels sticky under the table.

Where or where has our nation's attention span gone, with babies drowning in bathtubs while mom plays on Facebook?

And why are we giving children phones instead of spending time talking with them? Our friend Lexi has become so distracted by her iPhone--at age 10!--that we can scarcely have a conversation with her anymore. She even uses it during verse time at AWANA and I don't know why they don't take it from her.

I'm glad I'm with the preschoolers in Cubbies.

When do you see a teen now who doesn't have her face in a phone? Teens work in the church nursery but they're useless as helpers. They sit there distracted by their phones and I feel like screaming at what life has become for them. No wonder they're depressed and where is their work ethic and sense of responsibility? A girl of 11 in the 1800's could run a whole house, including a good part of the hard labor and childcare.

Oh 1800's, where is your wisdom? Where are your God-fearing people? Where are your dog-eared family Bibles and your family dinners and where are your loving neighbors who held each other up through grief and through lean farm yields?

Yes, people died of disease and that broke many a mother's hearts. And women died of childbirth and dreams were shattered.

But now we're dying still, inside. There are no antibiotics for lost souls.

Prayer Time: Dear Heavenly Father, Redeem us! Thank you for your beautiful, perfect design of our bodies and minds and spirits. Bring us back into your fold and may we listen to the rhythm and rhyme of your design. Give us wisdom as we raise the next generation. Bless us as mothers and keep us in line with your will. May we pour out love and self-sacrifice and may we love hard work. May we maintain high standards while extending grace and mercy. May we model godliness and contentment and may our children feel blessed by your presence and your spirit in our hearts and homes. May our children be filled with the Holy Spirit and make disciples of all neighborhoods and nations. May we lead to the Cross, above all.

In Your Son's name, Amen.

images here

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think these very seem things all the time. I ask myself often why do I rush them and feel s much pressure. On the flip side I feel the words of the world and let them have no irresponsibility. It dose seem life was simpler in the old day. Yet God has called us for this time. Great post my friend.