Henri Frederic Amiel, a Swiss philosopher poet and critic who lived in the 1800’s said “Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness”. There is no denying life can be tough, for some it is tough from the very first breath, for others a beautiful life can get tough when they start school, or leave home or experience death, divorce, disappointment, disease or loneliness. Some would argue that we have to toughen our kids up young, help them understand the harsh realities of life, so they know how to survive. I don’t really agree.
Patty Wipfler writes on the Hand in Hand website “Though we work hard to prevent it, our children will be hurt by crises. They will need a reservoir of confidence in themselves to come through well. Studies have shown that if just one person in a child's life is consistently supportive, a child is much more likely to overcome difficult circumstances. Just one person who is enthusiastic about the child. Just one person who lights up when the child walks into the room. Feeling close to one dependable adult is at the heart of resilience for children”.
This is not saying to provide a great childhood we need to offer endless sporting, musical, dramatic and social experiences to our children or is it saying a child needs to have endless clothes and rooms full of toys, or that discipline and disappointment are crucial to a good childhood. Money, socio-economic status or education level do not determine whether a childhood is great; it is love, acceptance and freedom to explore and grow.
In Australian Country Style May 2012 edition it was described that when Sydney Fashion Designer Marnie Skillings is creating a new collection of clothes for her Paddington shop, her memory is often stirred by her childhood. I am sure our childhood shapes our adult lives in many complex ways.
School is a crucial aspect of most childhoods, with formal education starting for some as young as four years old. I speak to a lot of parents who are concerned about our current education system. The National Curriculum is setting very stringent guidelines for what and how our children should learn. For teachers to meet all the objectives and outcomes and still embrace play based learning strategies it takes a lot of skill, time and energy. Surely, a great way to help all children have a great childhood would be to invest much more heavily in the skills and resources for our early childhood educators.
I also think being a parent needs a whole new marketing campaign. A recent survey in America found that two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-old women say being successful in a high-paying career is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives. Professional ambition is admirable and vital to the economy and society but the ambition to be a great parent, fully committed to creating a happy childhood for the next generation is also noble and important and should be more highly valued and regarded.
I am not talking about creating Utopia, sadly some children are always going to suffer, and this breaks my heart, but I don’t see what harm can come of being committed to creating happy childhoods for as many children as possible. What do you think?