Child’s Play

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Courtesy of Tom Readings Photography

As a child, I was convinced that one day I would be a professional football player and play for England. That was my dream and goal. There was nothing I wanted more, and for a long time I thought I would make it. Now the question I am going to address isn’t why I didn’t make it or what stopped me from becoming a professional athlete, the question is why did I yearn for this accomplishment? Why was this my fantasy? What spawned this aspiration?

As far as I’m concerned the answer is simple. My parents. They are the people who nurtured me and enabled me to discover my boyhood ambition and allowed me to hold on to that for as long as I needed. They understood that a child’s imagination is a crucial element in a healthy development. Every child should be allowed and indeed encouraged to be a child. That is, they should be seen as a child and not as an eventual pen-pusher or money-maker or – dare I say – responsible individual capable of making wise choices. They are none of these things. Children are humans at the beginning of the race for happiness; they need to be guided and nurtured, in a responsible manner that reveres their childlike capacities. Too often do we hear of children being manipulated and exploited by society. Nevertheless, I am not writing about child abuse or child labour per se. I am writing about the duty of parents to cultivate and foster their child in a way that enriches and respects their childlike nature.

How?

First of all, allow me to clarify that I do not have children and I am no expert on the skill or art of raising a child. There are, however, still fundamental objective truths that apply no matter who you are. For example, reading books. This is an age old tradition that can never be replaced and is indubitably more beneficial to the development of the mind than video games or watching films. To teach a child is to pave the road of the future. “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” – C.S. Lewis. This quote aptly calls to mind the obligation parents have to cultivate the minds of their children.

Reading to your child not only improves your own concentration and focus, but also betters the attention span of your children. Moreover, reading develops your discipline and memory while improving your vocabulary and reducing boredom. The benefits are innumerable. Sadly, the number of people who can’t read worldwide is unfathomable, and worst of all, avoidable. Either sit down with your children and read them the Chronicles of Narnia or make them sit down and read similar classics themselves. This, not buying them a PlayStation and installing a television at the foot of their bed, is exemplifying true respect for their childhood.

This is just one topic, however, and there are far too many to address in this brief blurb. The point I am really trying to make is that parents have a duty to allow their children to dream, play and imagine. That is not to say that children should be allowed to satiate their every childish whim, but more to channel their youthful enthusiasm for adventure into healthy activities, such as reading good and enriching books and playing outdoors rather than encouraging the all too easy addiction to technology that has tainted the youth of the modern age. In the timeless words of Albert Einstein, “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Although this was in reference to the creation of the Atomic Bomb it still applies in this context, and unfortunately has become all too true. The youth are incapable of holding conversations and are excessively engulfed in their phones, iPads and game consoles. Why has this happened? Because technology, rather than human interaction, has become the new oxygen for our lungs of self-fulfillment.

It’s not an easy task, but I pray that, through a combination of appreciation of what a child needs, and having the compassion and understanding to accommodate those needs,  I will be given the grace to raise my children to be gregarious stalwarts of decency in an all too confusing and insipid world.

By Anthony Readings, Intern at WYA HQ, New York.