On my way home from work recently, I stopped at a local supermarket to pick up a few items. I am a consummate people watcher who enjoys observing interactions between folks. I noticed a mother and her adorable 4 or 5 year old daughter. Dressed in rainbow striped tights, a polka-dot skirt and jacket and pink scarf around her neck, shoulder length light brown hair framed her cute little face. Sometimes she walked ahead of her mother, sometimes next to her. She chattered away, touching things on the shelves as she walked by. Much to my dismay, I could hear her mother telling her “Don’t touch, stop asking so many questions, get over here.” in what in my opinion was an unecessarily harsh tone. I followed them for a bit, considering my options. While I know that she might have needed re-direction so as not to knock anything over, mom’s reaction seemed over the top. I didn’t want to undermine her mother AND I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to somehow let this child know that her natural curiosity didn’t need to be squelched. Before I went to the check out counter, I approached them and commented to this woman that her daughter was so smart and curious. She cringed a bit and then replied that she asked too many questions. “No such thing.”, I countered. “That’s how she learns.” and then I smiled at both of them.
It occurred to me that as the daughter of parents who encouraged questions, my curiousity and willingness to learn new things, was enhanced. As a result, I loved to read, devouring knowlege like chocolate. Back then, the prevailing thought, which my parents fiercely countered, was that ‘children should be seen and not heard.’ Although Jan and I knew that there were certain places we were expected to be quiet, like synagogue, or at the movies, we were also expected to be kids and play joyously. We would sing silly songs, laugh outrageously, dig in the dirt, jump rope, sled, skate, fly kites, bike, swim, build sand castles at the beach, sit on the floor in the kitchen and play jacks and marbles. Our parents would engage in those activities with us at times….big kids they themselves were.
This morning as I was driving to work, I saw a delightful sight of a grandfather walking down the street, holding hands with his toddler grandchild. He was reaching down to this little one’s level and walking at his pace; a companion along the path. THAT is the image I would prefer to maintain. Children are such sponges that soak up whatever they experience and want to trust the adults around them. What would you prefer to offer in exchange for such trust? What a world it would be if all children were encouraged to be smart and curious.
http://youtu.be/EkaKwXddT_I Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young