It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. - Frederick Douglass
Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. - Charles R. Swindoll
I was sitting with a friend and colleague yesterday when he was suddenly alerted by a text on his phone. He checked it and proudly shared a photo with me – he was a Grandpa again!
Greg and I grew up in different parts of Eastern Canada at roughly the same time period and his newest addition to the family prompted me to ask him a question:
What memorable moments are we creating for the children of today?
Greg looked at me for a moment before he stated, “That is a VERY good question. I’m not sure what the answer is.”
The question took us on a trip down memory lane, two guys in their fifties remembering events and actions (mostly funny) that if we ever caught our kids doing when they were younger, we would have had them severely punished for.
Greg shared a story from his youth that I would like to share to make a point.
In grade 3, Greg and his friend Freddy were fishing off a wharf in Nova Scotia. They had found a bucket of square nails (a nail with a square cross section instead of a round one, common in construction up to the 19th century), which to Greg, didn’t mean anything at the moment. Greg had been catching perch off the wharf in significant quantities and at one point turned around to see what Freddy was doing. Freddy had used the nails to affix a hundred or more perch to the side of the fish plant building and it made for quite a mess. The two hot-footed their way out of the area before they were caught.
We both laughed heartily at the memory, even though we knew inside that if either of us had been the owner of the building at the time, we wouldn’t have been very happy at all.
We exchanged other memories like jumping from ice pan to ice pan in the bay during the winter (known as copying in Newfoundland) and a collection of other things that would be frowned upon now for being too risky, too dangerous or too improper for one reason or another. Even things like organized sport didn’t exist where I grew up and we were forced to find our own ways to play sports, in the process learning how to be creative, collaborative, resourceful and how to get along (most of the time) without the supervision of adults. If we went to our parents to complain about someone not playing fairly, we were usually told to go back outside and play and we did, learning how to negotiate, be assertive, be malleable, etc. in solving the problem that we had thought we needed our parents to solve.
We then pondered today’s kids. What memorable moments do they have? Are the memorable moments tied up in victories in sports? Are they tied up in memorable vacations? Do they have any memories beyond an event in Facebook, getting a new X-Box, watching news media overanalyze a terror event, watching their country tear itself up over gender definitions and the like?
Most (sadly, not all) of my generation didn’t know much about evil in the world (or in our community). The world contained as much evil then as now but ignorance was bliss for young people then. We were allowed to be children, without having to be lectured about sex, terrorists or anything else when we were five years old.
And it caused me to wonder:
Are we making our kids grow up and "mature" too early with our noble intention to make them more informed than we were at their age? Is our effort to make them more aware of the world actually destroying them instead?
Are we making them too aggressive by enrolling them in competitive sports where “winning” is more important than the things I mentioned when we were playing “pick up” games? Do they really need such structure and discipline so early in Life?
Are we applying too much pressure on them by forcing them to be so deeply aware of the world’s problems at an age where they do not have the tools to understand the problems but they do have the ability to acquire more fears as a result? Could this be one of many reasons why so many young people today need professional support to cope with Life?
Are we teaching them effective personal finance strategy when we tell (and show) them that buying things on credit (and thus satisfying a need immediately) is just as valid as waiting until one can afford something?
Are we removing too much of their potential to learn creativity by overloading them with forms of entertainment where they acquire some skills but many of the aspects of their imagination are filled in or provided for them?
Are we burdening them with too much hyper-connectivity, where they constantly text, FaceTime, Tweet (or something else) every update to everyone (and receive the same in turn) and where as a result, their brain never gets a chance to be quiet or to contemplate their own Life without being consumed by everyone else’s?
Are we ----- fill in your own question here -----?
The Bottom Line
I know it is easy to relive our memories with a fond sense of nostalgia, with most people preferring to remember good memories while forgetting (intentionally or not) bad memories.
But I wonder what kind of world we are creating for children as we push them to be permanently plugged in and overloaded before their malleable brains have had the opportunity to develop properly.
It is a question that calls for data and not just opinion.
By interesting coincidence, my friend Doug Picirillo posted this tweet today.
What remains of your childish fears and innocent hopes? Too often, we cling to the former and crush the latter.
Doug’s tweet and the questions that I asked need to be addressed, since the manner in which we prepare our children becomes an investment in the quality of their Life and the type of world we are creating.
Are we, as Doug asked, investing in innocent hopes or do we fall to what some people tell us, that to do so is a sign of weakness or an improper means of preparing our children and so we should crush their innocent hopes as soon as possible to make children “sensible”, “responsible” and “mature”?
Do you know how you are impacting and preparing your children?
Do you know what kind of world your children will create as a result of your choices?
How do you know?
Does it matter?
Why or why not?
In service and servanthood,
PS A great musical group from my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers, once released a song called Shinny on the Ice, describing what it was like to grow up in Newfoundland “way back when”.
The song describes a life that was intentionally simpler.
Yes, evil happened back then and but most of us were blissfully unaware of it. However, I don’t think I am the worse for not knowing what was going on in the world when I was younger.
Now if you will excuse me, I think I’m going to ask the guys in the office if they want to go play ball in the field for a while.
I will alert my parents to be on standby in case we can’t agree on the rules.