"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today."
This quote came across my Facebook feed recently, and it reminded me of how strongly I feel about allowing children to be children.
When I reposted this quote, a friend commented, "Exactly!!!!!! When I taught 4K, all I heard was get them ready for 5K...start this now....they were 4 not 5. We need to let them be what they are at this moment and experience life to the fullest for that day...we are not promised a tomorrow....but today is a gift."
So many adults are in a hurry, driven to succeed. Pressure comes from so many different places to set goals and work diligently to achieve them. Whether it is athletics, academics, or even artistic pursuits, the thinking seems to be that we need to start early and strive for excellence in order to achieve at the highest levels. I have conflicting feelings about this. On one hand, I admire people who work hard, develop a passion towards their life goals, and follow through with the commitment necessary to reach those goals. On the other hand, I worry that many people are robbed of something in that process.
Where does the drive to achieve come from? Does it develop naturally or is it something we learn? Does the drive come from a genuine place or is it a manifestation of the ego's desire to build itself up? By achieving at high levels, what are we hoping to gain? Joy? Fulfillment? Is high achievement the only or BEST path to happiness?
I see so many school district mission statements that seem to focus on students becoming successful contributors to the 21st century global economy. Our schools emphasize preparation for the NEXT step, the NEXT grade, the NEXT phase of life. In this forward-focused environment, I wonder how much we steal from children. Childhood is such an amazing time in the life of a human being. I don't think it should be looked at primarily as preparation for adulthood. It should be honored and enjoyed for what it is rather than being looked at as an incubation period.
I see so many children who go to school all week and then spend evenings at practices, weekends at tournaments or competitions, and the rest of their time studying or doing homework.
I see parents who have positive intentions placing enormous pressure on their children. They do so because society tells them this is what responsible parents SHOULD do.
So we go through childhood being told that we should always be planning and preparing for our future. When we become adults, we are so conditioned to think this way, that we rarely feel as though we have arrived. We keep pressing, looking forward to the next degree, promotion, accomplishment, etc.
Our minds are so often caught up in thought about our futures that our presents pass us by and we MISS life. Jon Kabat-Zinn says we can go for days, weeks, years, or even lifetimes lost in this thought, only rarely PRESENT for our lives as it unfolds in the NOW. Why are we so eager to look forward? Why are we so heavily engaged in planning and preparing for a future that does not yet exist? What price are we paying? What price do our children pay?
When we get to the end of our lives, there will be nothing left to strive for, so we will reflect. I don't want my reflections to consist of a man who was always living in the future. I don't want that for my children either. Let's insist that our schools prepare children for their futures, but always in a way that honors who they are now and what they need in the present.