Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Lest I forget, this is where I'm lucky enough to escape to!
" A child arrived just the other day, came into the world in the usual way. But there were planes to catch and bills to pay, he learnt to walk while I was away." The late Harry Chapin sang this in 1974, the lyrics are particularly poignant more so today. It is a "be careful what you wish for" type scenario, but this is what got me thinking about it.
Yesterday, a colleague was lamenting that he rarely spends time with his young children due to the heavy workload. Among my contemporaries I'm hearing stories of endless rounds of activities for kids out of school but sadly, few of them involve child and parents. So our children are being raised by people who are not us because we work.
I could talk about the breakdown in society, parenting by e-mail and text message and a host of other things but you all already know this stuff. What I find sad is how much we are denying our children in the guise of giving them everything. Are children today really better off? At the risk of dissolving into a nostalgic, rose tinted view of the "good old days", let's compare.
Our summer camp was being dropped off at Granny's house where we spent the day, not in front of the tv, but outside, climbing all eight julie mango trees, making endless bowls of chow, playing pirates in the pile of red sand that was supposed to be used for something else. Sure, we drove my grandmother nuts but our imaginations flowed free and there were no limits on our ability to create out of nothing more than a few crayons, some random pieces of wood and whatever else we could lay our hands on.
I remember going to lessons, common entrance or some other stupidness, but I didn't spend all day there. My parents both worked, but every August my mother would take off a couple of weeks to stay home with us. This is where I learnt to bake cakes, make dolls clothes and not kill my brothers. I read, incessantly. We were burnt brown from the beach. My father, always absent, in later years we could not relate, he was a stranger who occupied a space called father but not really a person to us.
My friends children have an exhausting round of extra lessons, karate, dancing, whatever,even during the vacation. Most of them have the latest electronic games, computers, iPods, whatever. The adults usually justify this by saying, we're giving them the best shot at school, university etc. They are almost always perpetually bored, wanting endless lifts, for the younger ones "play dates", the older ones, the Mall or Movietowne. They climb the walls when there is no electricity having not learnt how to amuse themselves by engaging their own imaginations. Most of the people I know work extremely long hours, not always by choice. They are faced with guilt when their kids tell them, mummy/daddy, you never spend any time with me. It's tough but is it really that you can't say no to the endless meetings and long hours or is it that it's a habit you can't break. Will the world stop if you take a couple hours off to read to your kid? I doubt it.
I sometimes want to remind them, we didn't do any of this stuff and neither did our parents and we all seemed to have turned out okay. So I don't have kids, with my current workload I would have never seen them; not an option for me. I did my own version of the kiddie shift so I do know what it's like. We all have choices, you chose to have children, now go spend some time with them.