Children come into this world serious beings. I know this is true because I watch Johnny, and once watched younger siblings, in their serious endeavors. Always the very young are seeking to acquire skills and accomplish feats. No one blames them that their goals are meaningless in the wider scheme of things. We know they are trying instinctually to become fully human.
Now why does this attitude peter out so quickly? Why do teens, for instance, talk unendingly of fun and we young adults complain of the effort it takes to accomplish our little tasks? Why do so many who should be growing into elders grow fat and poor instead? Why are we so life-weary so young?
And does this, by any chance, have something to do with today’s religious, sexual, and artistic incapacitation?
And yet the occasional efforts to fix this moral laziness are so destructive. I really abhor most of these so-called educational toys that parents are often guilted into giving their kids. Johnny wants to practice putting one block on top of the other. How disengenuous would it be for me to sneak in a little pre-school by painting numbers and letters on the side?
So I vow that in our living room culture, “fun” is going to be the dirtiest word. Fun is way too cheap a form of enjoyment to satisfy a merry little soul like Johnny. And the next dirtiest word will be “education.” To aquire true learning he must transcend mere education – and besides, everyone now knows that education (modern word for a modern concept) stresses kids out rather than challenging them.
All I want to do is keep my son from forgetting about the joys of accomplishment, of relationship, and of action. I must not, by pampering, neglecting, or frustrating, rob him of the power to act rather than merely thinking or intending…
This means escalating the challenges, facilitating the goals, and nipping in the bud all those little shoots of laziness and self-protection that come along so quickly. It means having the personal courage to enjoy work as much as he does. It means sustaining the attention needed for praising or blaming fairly. It means having the nerve to leave him alone sometimes so he can internally work through his external experiences. It means nourishing him physically, environmentally, spiritually and emotionally…without pampering or pandering. It means so preparing him for a hard but rewarding life that any other would be distasteful to him.
In fact, it means creating a whole moral Universe for him to live in instead of the one actually surrounding us. Yes, all that just to let him keep his birthright.
What must I give up, what unnatural efforts must I put forth?