I have never quite understood how it became socially acceptable to laugh openly AT children, there’s no confusion that it might be WITH, we really laugh AT them. I know it’s a truism that they do say and do the funniest things, but much of the time, they aren’t trying to be funny, much of the time they’re trying to express something that’s extremely important to them.
During a movement workshop in a lovely RC school in central Birmingham, a very keen six year old girl kept asking if she could show me her Irish dancing, and I had replied, yes, that would be lovely, but could she please wait and show me at the end of the session.
It’s impossible for us to understand - or to be more accurate, to remember - what it’s like for a baby or toddler trying to get to grips with conversation. Even if we decide to learn another tongue, we at least know what language is, we grasp the concept; our little ones are starting entirely from scratch. So how can we help them?
It's the time of year where we tend towards reflection on the past and looking to the future. Our children are not unaware of this too.
In November I wrote about how the connection between our brain and our body is very much deeper than we might have imagined, and counselled encouraging our children to consider themselves in a more holistic way.
But how do we do that?
Good Heavens! It seems that our minds and bodies are linked…
Yes, finally science is catching up with what those who work in physical professions have known for years.
Several articles have appeared recently, in the print press and online, discussing new findings that challenge the idea that our bodies are vessels for transporting our brains around. It is the common received belief, and although we are encouraged to keep our vessels healthy, we completely underestimate how powerfully unified the human system is.
If you live or work with small children, how often do you actually get down and view the world from their perspective?
It can be, quite literally, an eye opener.
It’s not just the psychological effect of endlessly looking upwards at your designated figures of authority, it’s also the horrible damage to your cervical spine that makes this an undesirable state of affairs.
Young children are small - there’s no getting round it, they just are. They can be quite a long way down, and sometimes it can seem like a bit of an effort to get all the way down there, because you’ll only have to get all the way back up again.
I remember working at an Infant School, with a class of Year 2s who were just about to leave to go to Junior School, and one little boy in particular was feeling a bit anxious about his unknown future. We spent a playtime sitting on the carpet together, talking through his concerns and, thankfully, allaying his fears. When the bell rang and the other children started to come back into the classroom, a little girl ran over to me and said, “What are you doing on the floor Miss? You’re a grown-up!!” And of course I realised in that instant that at the ripe old age of eight, no adult ever got down to her level - never actually communicated with her face to face, eye to eye. Not her parents, not her teachers, no-one she classified as a grown-up. She was spending her life literally being talked down to, every single day.
Not so long ago, a friend of mine posted a quite understandable rant on Facebook, following a particularly unpleasant altercation when he tried to take his child into his workplace of fifteen years. The attitude of the gatekeeper had been less than welcoming, which judging by the substantial online discussion my friend's post generated, around similar problems experienced by mutual friends in similar situations, this is not too uncommon.
What there wasn’t - in any of the cases cited - was any empathy with the child, and how she must have felt. Our POV is almost always so rooted in the adult experience, that whether literally or metaphorically, we find it difficult to take on board the child’s perspective, and I can’t help thinking that my friend’s child must have picked up on the vibe of not being wanted or welcome in the building.
We have enough difficulty with a younger generation who feel alienated and ostracised from the adult world, perhaps we could take time to really look through their eyes, to see their point of view, to try to bridge that void.