Archive for October, 2013

Child’s Play

October 22, 2013

“Who was the first person to discover burps?”

“How do your bones come out of you when you’re dead?”

Spending time with people under the age of five is good for the soul. It takes us away from the real and imagined stresses of adulthood and grounds us in beautiful simplicity. It takes a pin to pent up intensity and pops it. It lightens the air.

To children, everything is play. It is difficult to imagine a mind so free of tangled woes and barbed thoughts. For most of us, clarity ended with adolescence. Such a cruel game of nature to take a brain mapped out along lines of simple, innocent thought, and twist it to see the sinister, the dangerous, the ugly. Of course, the mapping done in childhood is designed to make for an easier traverse through the hormonal jungle, but sometimes it is the very connections made during the formative years that expose the child to deeper thinking and thus the potential pitfalls of the heavy mind.

If there were no other onus upon us to ensure our children experience playful, carefree childhoods it should be this: they must enjoy it while it lasts. During the years from birth to five the foundations are being laid. The cement is poured. The brain retains a degree of plasticity but the wiring becomes more difficult to disentangle. Children do not need cocooning, but they do need a safe, familiar space for free-range, unencumbered play. 

This freedom to allow happy, carefree development can be derailed. Illness, loss and trauma can upset the applecart. Life can deal some shockingly heavy blows: even when you’re four the path may not be free of obstacles. It is ok to know that life involves struggle and hardship, but ideally, this should be learned much later in life when paths of resilience have been positively established. Life, of course, does not work that way, and so amid life’s harsher realities, the safe, the familiar, the playful must be employed in the care of our children.

They didn’t ask to be brought into this world. They do not owe us a debt. We owe it to them, and to the world into which they have been released, to provide as safe and as positive an environment for their development as we possibly can. It is a task not designed to be easy. But if we let in the fun, if we revel in the play, it doesn’t all have to be hard work.