On education, March 29th, 2017

There is something instrinsically wrong with the way we raise our children.

When I was a nanny, I witnessed first hand what it was to pop out babies and leave to others the care of their upbringing. Before actually having to attend to children everyday, I guess that just like many women of my generation, I thought that by now I would have a bunch of kids on  my own. Being around them for days on end however changed my views on life in general and on what it means to bring a new life to this world. Being a nanny first taught me that no matter how rich you are, money can’t buy the only thing you really need when growing up: love, unconditional love. I saw parents elaborating carefully thought plans of education for their kids: piano, violin, tennis, Chinese lessons galore. And I saw those very same kids being in tears after school because neither Mom nor Dad were at home for days on end. Day after day, I took those kids to their fancy, various, expensive activities. Yet the more material comfort they had, the more absent the parents. It taught me that while I might have been envious of that comfort prior to experiencing it at a later stage in life, I probably had a happier childhood growing up poor than the one those kids were experiencing being raised by a stranger. I saw first hand that money really can’t buy happiness. It’s definitely a means to an end, but one you have to use wisely and carefully. I thought, what is the point of accomplishing the ultimate act of love, that of giving birth to a new human being with the person you cherish the most, if it’s to leave to others the care of their upbringing? How can anybody grow up with a healthy set of values if they don’t know first hand about emotions before learning to master any other skill? 

We live in a society where everything is so carefully organised. We are programmed from a very young age to strive for professional achievements and successes that have nothing to do with us as beings but rather with our ability to perform well in a race we created for ourselves. Proof is, when we meet someone new, we immediately seek to find out what they are up to in life, professionally. We don’t ask “Hey, are you successful at being happy at this stage of your life?”, but rather “what is your professional occupation, aka what is your place in our carefully elaborated and hierarchical society?”. Instead of defining ourselves by our emotions, we define ourselves and our pairs by how well we climbed a social ladder we created over the centuries. Again, everything is down to how much we make at the end of the month, as if this was the ultimate goal we should all strive for.

Sometimes I teach. That means i have to get up early to attend my classes. I walk the same school run as do plenty of parents each morning and that as well as my experience as a nanny many moons ago led me to considerably think about that imaginary race we throw ourselves into, and about processing life in general.

I very rarely see a happy parent doing the school run. Most of the time, in the public transports, on the pavement, what I see is an exhausted person keeping up more or less enthusiastically next to a toddler. What I see in those parents’ eyes is disillusionment, boredom, resignation. They didn’t want to get up early to bring the kid to school. They hadn’t planned life to be a succession of dropping and picking up their kids day after day after day after day. And they certainly hadn’t planned on ever having to listen to the boring, pointless stories their kids bring back from school everyday.

That saddens me greatly. To think that having a child wasn’t a venture carefully, lovingly planned with a soulmate, but rather an undertaking done because a certain age and other milestones were reached. That is precisely how we create generations of disillusioned, listless individuals who will just follow those same footsteps by walking blindly into paths to be taken just because they have been walked before and not because there is an overpowering, passionated wish to walk them. Not every day can be magical yet life should be celebrated every day, in so many ways and with so much heart.

That saddens me, to see that so many people can live without passion, or choose to settle for less than what they dreamt about when there minds were still running free because it’s the done thing, the right thing to do, and so on. Not only are our days very scarcely counted, but those of our Earth are likewise not infinite. Yet we crush our souls into a societal mould carefully crafted to make us feel as little emotion as possible and most of the time we prefer to let ourselves being carried along this stream and into a numbness rather than to stop running aimlessly and ask ourselves questions that can sometimes painfully hit a nerve.

If we fail to stop sometimes to think, as adults, what kind of an example are we creating for future generations? Our children don’t have to be our biological ones for us to consider it is our collective duty to make them strive for something more significant than money. There is so much more to life than performing better than the neighbour. And all the things that are much more are the things we constantly entice our children to stop feeling. There are so many don’ts that shape a childhood. Don’t speak too loud, don’t touch, don’t daydream at school, don’t dare to dream too much because this isn’t going to happen anyway. But what if what we felt as children was followed all the way through? What if we let more room for a child’s unrestrained imagination and spirit to blossom? What if instead of those disheartned looks I see in most parents’ eyes in the morning there was a little bit more grace in the process because they knew their kids would become wonderful human beings by attending a school of life rather than a school aimed at making one part of their brain perform to the detriment of their emotions? I’m not saying that maths, chemistry and English aren’t important skills to acquire, but the cult of performance seems to be the only thing that matters in childhood nowadays. How well a kid performs in class, at sport, and how little of a nuisance he is considered to be with his pairs and with adults. I haven’t thought of any solution nor do I want to replace school by another eductional body, but aren’t there so many options we’re oblivious to when it comes to education? We just put our children into school hoping for the best, waiting from the teachers that they’ll imprint their knowledge into our kids’ malleable brains. But there is more than scientific and linguistic knowledge to be acquired. The most important knowledge of them all, that emotional knowledge which enables us to interact with one another, is paradoxically the one we are the least taught about. We learn it only instinctively, and only by gaining experience usually gained by making what we deem mistakes. What if we taught ourselves and our children to feel and to carefully listen to their own feelings and those of others as much as we teach them about factual matters? Wouldn’t we be raising a generation of beings for whom awareness and self-esteem would be taken to a whole different level? Wouldn’t we all experience much more significant moments if what really drove people in life was the pursuit of goals more lasting and profound than a career and the appearance of a perfect life?

Wouldn’t I then see more often parents blissfully hugging their kids on the school run because they would be aware of the incredible grace of that moment they themselves created by bringing a new life into this world?

In Spanish, giving birth is dar a luz. Giving the light. Why do we so often forget that, in order to give light, we have to find it within ourselves first?


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