a new map of the world.

Posts tagged “children

through smaller eyes

WFHG4“Someday, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Studying at UNC-Charlotte has afforded me the opportunity to study child development: how they understand the world and how they interact with parents. It has been enlightening and a little revealing to me of gaps in my own life due to the fact that we never really grow up: we just learn to behave in public.

When I was nine, my family lived in a brick home in town in a small neighborhood off the main highway. Ironically, the streets in the neighborhood were named after famous authors and poets over the past two hundred years; I had no idea. These were times when stringing blankets around the deck would become a shelter for a severe Siberian winter, and the floor was completely made of lava. My brother and I would have elaborate funerals for G.I. Joes who were killed in action and I saw my first comet. A little girl lived across the street who believed that if she shouted loud enough that people in airplanes would be able to hear her.

As children, imagination is everything, and almost anything is imagination. Anything can be anything. This is how we start, and most of us lose this ability as we grow older. Well, we don’t lose it, we just start to call our imaginations plans and dreams, and the behaviors that govern them convictions. The rules that govern “the floor is lava” are basically the rules that govern a flight through college, or finding a job: stay on the safe spaces as much as possible and plan your moves. The convictions are honed by family expectations, our beliefs, and past experiences.

Also, children find forms of attachment in their caregivers, which are generally their parents. Children are confident when they are confident in their parents. When situations change or something unknown comes into their vision, they re-establish connection with the parent to be sure that everything is on the up and up. These connections are crucial for young children and they will test them as a means of finding stability in their own identity. “Mom gets mad when I slam the cabinet, so let’s just see if she’ll get mad again.” In fact, consistent behavior in parents is the development of love that a child understands.

I was in Starbucks today and a little boy was getting into everything. He had bright blue eyes and a hat on backwards so nobody cared. He stopped and looked up at me… smiled and gave me a thumbs up. For some reason children like me and gravitate to me. In that moment, I looked at him through the eyes of an adult and saw complexity of eye contact and human interaction, but he looked at me through the eyes of a child with the simple question: can I trust you? I smiled to reassure him and he went about his business.

What we need to take away is the understanding of perspective. Children are closer to innocence then we are. They do not see the world through a lens of broken complexities. They can do anything they imagine and the world is pure, in many cases. This is a form of innocence we must nourish and protect, but also shape. While at the same time understand how it plays into our lives and why we do things. How I behave in a relationship is not all that different from how I would behave as a child, because romance is essentially moving attachments to a new type of family. This can give us great potential for influence and patience in other’s lives; great affect for the greater effect.

We need to learn to step away from how we understand the world. Yes, we grow wise with age, but we cannot lose the spark of innocence that gives us stability so that we are not taken captive by a world of cynicism. Step back and see the world through smaller eyes.

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warriors and children

Nw8ImThere are moments in life when faith hits and weak spot and all of our weakness comes pouring out at once; Caught in a pool of information and emotions that feel so alien and the hope that once felt secure passes through our hands that try and clinch it so tight. Is it that the hope has gone, faded from view and luck has looked the other way? It’s like falling from a train and tumbling through the weeds. The thought of getting back on seems foolish, let alone to where we were? Or are we to assume that where we were is where we should be?

These are moments of reality. Life is messy. We are given hope and instructions with provision, but we must walk through this world, bumping and falling along the way. Yes, we are called to be warriors, but deep inside this armor we are children who have never fully understood ourselves, but we think we do. We fall down and nobody sees that we race home as fast as we can with tears in our eyes. Even the strong fall and even the secure lose hope. I scribbled a quote from Neitzsche: “The strongest have their moments of fatigue”.

I suppose the important thing to do is almost nothing at all. It isn’t to assume that the faded emotions mean that we have lost our way, or that our falling means that we have fallen from grace. God is in control. This never changes. He saw our fall from the beginning of time, from the vantage point of the cross, and He is not caught off guard. Although we assume the wheels of our world grind to a halt, and skid along the path of life, He smiles with the tenderness of a Father who will come to His children and is closest to us when we feel farthest from Him. Like warriors we run against the enemy, and like children, we run to Him when we fall.

We aren’t alone because we feel alone; we are only alone when we reject the fact that He still loves us. The water in the river is just as present at the beginning as it is when it pours over the rocks. He has called the end from the beginning and faith calls us to put our confidence in that. I suppose this is what gave David words to say “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” and “though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

Job fell through pain and came to the point of wishing he could die: no, that he hadn’t even been born, yet he said: “though he slay me, yet will I trust Him”. He came about to say “there is hope for the tree that is cut down because it’s shoots will not fail.” It will rise again. No matter the fall, there is always grace. No matter the heartache, there is healing. No matter the darkness, there is always light. “In the darkest night, men see the stars.” – Emerson

It’s not enough that we quote it, but that we open our hearts to the fact that He is present even when we don’t see Him and ask Him to show Himself as He wants to be revealed, not as we want to see Him. We would be with passion and want all now, but He wants us to experience Him in His time, not ours. Perhaps this is the price of trust; that is being broken, we are being remade into something much more beautiful. If we believe Him, let us also abide this truth in our hearts.

It is only human to fail and hurt. We must never be ashamed. I feel in my life that I am caught in a fog and loneliness and isolation fall. If I tell myself “I am alone”, what is that telling Him? In contrast, I am telling Him that I don’t trust what He has done. This is more to convince myself then anything because many things are mounted against me right now and I know I must stay strong if I want to finish strong and if this house of cards falls completely down, I must already know how I will respond, but I know that this world is no stranger to suffering. He is good and faithful and has been faithful and I must remember that. Our help is on the way. The onyl fear for the future is to forget how He has led in the past.


In Takes a Village | but probably not one with torches

An essay on the approach of community in raising children in light of current social situations.

A shift in the social values of modern America has greatly impacted the educational and socioeconomic development of childhood development that is echoed in a very “hands off” approach to raising children on very personal levels in the family and the world around them. The autumn sun rises and children are prepared for school. As early as five years of age parents and guardians package their children in neat sweaters and new backpacks and load them into yellow metal boxes to be delivered to a public school system where they will learn about the world from teachers and peers. The mid-day leaves empty houses grinning at empty streets in empty neighborhoods. This new era of connected disconnection has left the American dream of the 1950s, of family vacations and door-to-door salesmen, of apple pies cooling in windows, of self creation and exploration, to merely sit on the street corners of every town and every city: a homeless vagabond that has been forgotten with a cardboard sign that simply reads, “Where are we now and where do we go from here?”

The current recession in the west has brought the educational system back into the line of fire with a barrage of claims, criticism, and more new policies and ideals, basic changes, on a large scale. This is the final effect of change in the development of the child and the area of social environment that has a great influence in the development of children. This is an indicator of the short-siding, child developmental skills America has adopted as a whole, in that when the world is economically sound the educational system is seen to be in-tact, but when the numbers start to drop the system is brought into out-group status. The problem of economic stability is not a problem that lands on the shoulders of the school system, but on the irresponsibility and the fact that society and American families, again in general, have been caught asleep at the wheel. Historically it is not the school systems that raise children and teach them values, but families and small communities.

To put it more succinctly and simply, I could say that the influence of environment on child development will, along with other types of influences, also have to he assessed by taking the degree of understanding, awareness and insight of what is going on in the environment into account. If children possess various levels of awareness, it means that the same event will have a completely different meaning for them. We know that, frequently, unhappy events may have a happy meaning for a child who does not understand the significance of the event itself, especially in view of the fact that he is now allowed what he is normally not allowed – just to keep him quiet and prevent him from pestering he may be given sweets and, as a result, the child might end up experiencing his mother’s dangerous illness as an event which for him is joyful and fun, and to look at him, he may appear like a birthday child. The crux of the matter is that whatever the situation, its influence depends not only on the nature of the situation itself, but also on the extent of the child’s understanding and awareness of the situation. (Vygotsky, 1935)

                Vygotsky, a renowned developmental psychologist, studied the effects of influential interaction between society and childhood development, makes an interesting observation in a lecture about the effects of the role of families and the child’s progressive understanding of environment influence.  This moves the burden of responsibility, emphatically, back on the shoulders of the family: first with parents and then to extend family. The reason this is important is because the child’s understanding is going to change as the child becomes a literate social observer, this requires a focused and controlled environment for the primary development that will continue to grow and emulate an atmosphere of stability and security. This is a necessity that cannot be offered by a large, corporate institution; it is simply impossible. Corporate institutions, of education and otherwise, should only be seen as secondary resources to the primary development of children that take place within the bonds of a dynamic family development.

The statement, “it takes a village to raise a child” (which is not from Hillary Clinton but an attributed old African Proverb), comes in to play as the process of social identity grows and expands. Children are not mathematical equations, and neither are families. Just as children derive their identity from their families, families derive their identity from secondary social organizations which stand aside to primary society: mainstream America. The present complication with this ideal, along with “No Child Left Behind”, is that it is presenting a more controlled view of education and expansion of government. The reason this does not work is that it does not cut to the core of the issue: healthy children develop in homes that are influenced by direct social influence, in general. Hillary’s idea of “village” is understood to be one of greater influence where the “village” leans more too governing structure than to community involvement; which can be chalked up to many of the short-comings in the West’s social structure. This said merely as a statement of framework to define what a “village” is.

The Andy Griffith show is saturated with the desirability of community and a sense of belonging. Opie Taylor jumps on his bike and rides with his friends around Mayberry. He’ll run into Floyd, the barber who is the information source among the men of the community, or Barney Fife, the deputy Sheriff that works for his father, Andy Taylor. The mark of the show is a strong sense of character, belonging, and position. The community works as a unit to ensure the stability of the children in the show, which is presented in a very organic form and characteristic of many towns, probably more so at the turn of the 1900s then in the 1950s. This is the village that is required to raise a child. It is only limited to the extent that the nuclear family has a direct position within it. This makes larger organizations, such as the government, ineffective because no single family has any strong bearing in its development. It must be a sizable community that also reflects similar social attitudes as the nuclear family unit.

Social identity theory posits that situational stimuli in-duce individuals to enact primary social identities. Partial membership in different identity groups offers individuals latitude in choosing social referents. Choice of a primary social identity, whether based on affiliation with an organization, a function, religion, gender, nation, or other categories, indicates an ordering of social reality and the individual’s position in it. Social identities serve as bases for self-evaluation and enhancement, as well as for comparison with others via in-group identification. Moreover, social identities, to the extent that they arise from a dynamic relationship of individual perceptions with social reality, are an important window on intergroup and organizational dynamics. (Salk and Shenkar, 2001)

                When the rubber meets the road and America asks who has the check for their gross misallocation of social responsibility, it has to be understood the current manifest destiny that has made the functioning family nothing more than a figment on the television is what caused the downfall in the first place in what developmental psychologist Dr. Robi Sonderegger has called “the greatest social experiment in human history”. The value has made a complete paradigm shift which has caused the children all around the country to be left behind because there is little importance on an internal focus on family and small community. It takes a village to raise a child, but not in a large concept of standardized anything, but specific knowledge, focus, and social identification. Until there is a return to this ideal the problems that are aggressively attacking the youngsters of this age will be amplified in their adulthood and will come back in greater force with the second and third generation. It’s time for families to step back into the game and understand that “there is no surrogate for good parenting” (Sonderegger, 2010).

Bibliography

Salk, Jane E and Oded Shenkar. “Social Identities in an International Joint Venture: An Exploratory Case Study.” Organization Science 12.2 (2001): 161-178.

Sonderegger, Dr. Robi. Protecting Your Tech-Savvy Teen from Pornography. Denver, CO, 19 October 2010.

Vygotsky, Lev. “marxist internet archieve.” 1935. The problem of the environment. 21 October 2010 <http://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/1934/environment.htm&gt;.