A story is told of a very self-important college boy who took it upon himself to explain to a senior citizen sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation. “You grew up in a different world, actually an almost primitive one!” the student said, loud enough for many of those nearby to hear. “The young people of today grew up with television, jet planes, space travel, men walking on the moon, spaceships that have visited Mars. We have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with DSL, BPS, light-speed processing … and…..” The Senior responded, “You’re right, son. We didn’t have those things when we were young, so we invented them. Now, you – arrogant little brat – what are you doing for the next generation?”
It seems so much fun to be born into a jet age where virtually everything is instant: instant coffee, instant tea, instant message, instant noodles, instant chat, instant fame, instant feedback (facebook like), instant download, instant access to data, instant gratification; indeed, a generation of “at-the- spur-of-the-moment.” There is no time to waste!
Earlier generations of kids had more time to “waste” and to learn. Perhaps, more time to think too and be creative. Children of earlier generations spent their time in far different ways. As you read, your mind may be on your childhood and how different it is from that of today’s child. Certainly, time passes and things change, but when certain values seem to get lost along with the change, then there is cause for sober reflection on how to help today’s child.
Earlier kids had more contact with nature. A common phrase from parents was, “Go outside and play!”. Who says that anymore? Parents themselves also spend little or no time with kids outdoors. You may wonder, what is special about being outdoors? Besides concerns for safety and security, which we are faced with even more today, we know that moments such as family picnics, outside games, sports, sight-seeing, hiking, visits to places of interest, and socializing with family and friends, are not moments to be taken for granted. Those are the “Waoh!” moments of our precious childhood.
Outdoor events as kids and as a family, helps both kids and parents relax, creativity is provoked, people are themselves, more bonding happens, people see and understand one another better and closeness is better knitted. In some cases, it creates a space where even difficult issues are touched upon with far less emotions, hence, understanding and relationship are built. Some of these moments remain embedded in the child’s memory as the “good old days”. Just staring into screens doesn’t create beautiful and lasting memories that give more meaning to life. Rather, create more “good old days” memories!
So, today, do children still play? Playgrounds today have become commercialized as opposed to other open fields where children and young people spontaneously gathered and freely flexed their muscles in heart-felt play. In my memories, children played like there was no tomorrow. It is part of their primary vocation and right as kids to have safe space to play. They must not be denied such opportunity while paying attention to their safety, security and well-being. This needs to be put into consideration when choosing a school for your child or ward.
Today, computer games, Ben 10 movies, satellite channels of cartoon networks, use of internet phones, and watching videos of other children singing and playing have become the order of the day. Kids spend so much time looking at a screen; TV screen, laptop, phone screen, tablet, computer, and the likes. Guess what! Kids miss out on interacting with their parents. What precious moments!
Apart from those who may live in rural settings, it seems gone are the days when kids played with sand, prepared sand dishes, kids kicked football and did acrobatics in open fields, girls plaited one another’s hair, clapped in pairs to some musical tune, interacted with other children within the neighborhood and got to know their community well. So much of such child’s play has evolved into more structured recreational periods within the school and at clubs or game houses visited by affluent parents and their kids. Besides these, it is all TV and school work. Some of our kids grow fat as they are so well fed but have little or no opportunity for frequent physical activities. Rather, outdoor activities keep children healthy and active!
Today, kids move from classroom to homework to home lessons to cartoon network, they eat and sleep. They wake up very early and their routine begins again. They seem to miss out on “just being kids”. If only they would be allowed time to learn good social relations with those around them, learn respect and good ways of communicating their wants and needs. Kids need to do house chores equal to their age, learn to talk freely with their parents and siblings, share/express their little knowledge and experiences, play and mix with other children in a safe environment, and be taught to earn, through good behaviour, that which they crave for.
All in all, parents and guardians are mindful of the child’s safety and security. It is important to keep an eye on kids as they play outdoors. The need for kids to have “fresh air” frequently needs to be balanced out with our concern for security. There are cases where the kids would rather be outdoors playing while their parents will not allow them. This is certainly subject to the parent’s judgement of their immediate environment. However, there must to be a way to achieve safety and still allow the child have some outside play time. It is not impossible!
That reverence which kids had for elders and older persons seems to be wearing away and in some cases, has worn away completely. With the jet age of information, elders have to deal with an “I-know-it-all” generation. There is a common attitude of “I know it. What can you tell me?” among the young ones of today.It sometimes becomes a crisis for some older persons who still can’t make sense of what the young ones are up to.
However, this does not mean that younger persons do not have what they too can offer and contribute. On both sides, there has to be the willingness to truly listen, willingness to learn from the other’s perspective, mutual respect and sharing of wisdom and experiences for mutual growth and benefit. Every person, including a child, has something unique to offer, hence, no age or experience should be ignored or belittled.
(To be continued)
• By Linda Asimole Ellah