I am afraid. No, I am terrified and scared, confused, and frustrated. As I sit and write this, I am with my thirteen year old nephew, and I am afraid for him. He is at a point in life where there are some things, that no matter what we may want for him, he may not, and we may have to accept that fact. I can live with him not being an “A” student, I was just an average student myself. I can live with his strange thought process, he is a 13 boy, I am not supposed to understand how he thinks. I can even live with the fact that the cost of his tennis shoes I can buy several, and I mean several of my outfits and shoes.
My fear for him and not just him, but many children of all races, is that at some point, in all the technology that we have given our children, the one thing we did not give them is the ability to think on their own. We want our kids to succeed so much that we have not given them one of the necessary requirements of success, the need for and the real consequences of failure.
Could it be that we have forgotten that failure is a part of life, just as is success. Have we lost sight of the fact that there are lessons to be learned from failing to accomplish some things? Do we love our children so much that while we don’t want them to feel the pain of losing a game, or getting a bad grade, we forget the growth opportunities that comes from that?
Not being a parent, I do work with and for kids, and I am scared for many of them. There is value in playing with blocks and crayons. There is much to be gained by reading a book, or a magazine. Playing with dolls and fire trucks. Playing dress up, pretending to be Superman and Wonder Woman. Going to the park, running, jumping, kicking a ball and riding a bike. There are valuable lessons that are learned from falling down when roller skating. There are strategies to be gained by trying to keep your kite in the air, or how to gain the fastest speed when sliding down the hill on your sled.
I remember reading Tiger Beat and Dynamite Magazines. I wanted to know about Donnie Osmond, and Stoney Jackson. Romantic comic books were my first leap into what I thought I wanted my relationships look like, or so I thought, but I digress. Reading the books Little House on the Prairie and Little Women before I saw the television show or movie allowed me to be disappointed when the tv character did not look like the one I had imagined in my head. (Laura Ingles was a black.) Going to the ballet or to hear the symphony even before I was at an age when I could appreciate them.
As technology began to do more and more for us, we shoved it on our children. We gave it to them so that they would get out of our hair, because we had other things to do. Not that they were unimportant things, just other things. Our children picked it up new babysitter as a game or a toy that never asked them questions of how is it or why is it, just do. Then we gave them more technology to as cool ways of sending messages and pictures to each other, and to talk at each other but not to and with each other.
But did we teach them how to really use all that we were really giving them? Did we teach them how to use it to enhance their thought process or is it just an easier way to get the answer? (Side note: don’t you hate how no one at a store knows how to give change anymore without the help of a computer?) Have we really shown them the power of the technology or are we just helping them be shallow techies who can text their friends, but can’t research a science paper? People, if all the power were shut down tomorrow, would be hard pressed to be able to survive until the power came back on.
This is a lifestyle of doing things instantly, our children do not understand the concept of sitting down and taking things a bit slower to make sure that it is the best that we can do. So when asked to describe a picture by Fancisco de Goya, our children look at it and can’t understand why it would take someone a year to paint a picture. Because that process, the process of creating art the old fashioned way, with a brush, paint, and canvas, is not being taught, they have lost something. They have lost some of the creative energy, juices, and spirit that drives the process. We have given them the answers and forgotten to show them how to be curious enough to want the feeling you have when you discover something on your own.
And part of the creative process is failure. Failure is a part of life, and so not only do we need to teach our children how to succeed, but we also need to teach them how to cope with failure. That failure is not the end, it is the beginning. Failure does not make you a bad person, it makes you a stronger person. It is how we take on failure that proves that we are men and women of integrity. Don’t get me wrong, I want all of our children to succeed, but I want to know and experience all aspects of life, and failure is a part of that.
So for my nephews and nieces, and to all “my” children” I wish for you the gift of creativity, and curiosity. I hope that all of your dreams come true, and your life is filled with more than you could have even imagined. And more importantly, when things don’t go your way, I pray that you learn from that lesson, and find the way to get where you need to go.