Tuesday, 12 July 2011

If I Were Queen

If I Were King
by A. A. Milne

I often wish I were a King,
And then I could do anything.

If only I were King of Spain,
I'd take my hat off in the rain.

If only I were King of France,
I wouldn't brush my hair for aunts.

I think, if I were King of Greece,
I'd push things off the mantelpiece.

If I were King of Norroway,
I'd ask an elephant to stay.

If I were King of Babylon,
I'd leave my button gloves undone.

If I were King of Timbuctoo,
I'd think of lovely things to do.

If I were King of anything,
I'd tell the soldiers, "I'm the King!"

If I were queen of the world: what a game to play. If I could be a fairy godmother and grant all the world's children with the ten things I think would be the greatest gifts a child could receive, what would they be?

What I wish for children, all children, can be summed up in one paragraph about a sometimes stimulating, sometimes challenging and sometimes nurturing community of which they are a part, but I think I can break it down into ten individual points:

10) I wish every child responsibility.

It may sound completely against the grain of current popular opinion to suggest that I don't mean responsibility for trivial tasks such as cleaning their room or themselves, or doing their homework. The kind of responsibility I mean runs much deeper than that.
Taking care of one's own concerns isn't really true responsibility. The kind of responsibility which I wish for children, even from an early age, are responsibilities that are external to the child themselves.
Responsibility nurtures empathy, independence and a sense of interconnectedness that builds strong, healthy individuals. While these external responsibilities might seem like a drag to the kids at the time, I also feel that the sense of being needed, being a part of their external surroundings makes for a happier, more fulfilled individual overall.

9) I wish every child conflict

This again, sounds totally counter to the popular idea that children need peace. Fact is, our minds are stimulated by conflict. I don't mean the kind of conflict that is over ANY individual's head, be they adult or child. I don't mean violence.
It's hard it seems, in this day and age, to separate violence from conflict, but the fact is that the two ideas are not interdependent. Violence is often born out of conflict, but I suspect that as we as a society continue to back away from conflict or challenges we are going to become less and less able to deal with it when it comes up. I suspect this will lead to more and more violence, as we begin to mutually associate the two.
Conflict teaches us resolution, it teaches us grace in victory and defeat and it teaches us what makes us the same and what makes us different. It teaches us where our boundries lie and where we are strong and determined. We can never learn to negotiate, speak and be free if we are never challenged.
If we surround ourselves with only those things which never countermand our self-interest we become complacent and self-important.
A good story has to have a conflict, and what is life for if you don't have a good story at the end of it?

8) I wish every child time to just be

Apart from the time they might spend struggling and caring for others, which might sound like I want kids to have pretty bleak lives so far, they also need time to process their input. Everything to them is so much newer than it is to us, which might seem like it goes without saying but the way kids are scheduled these days fails to take this very basic concept into account.
Kids need time to just exist in the moment. We all do, of course, but kids need a bit more of it. So many bits and peices of input which we all take for granted still need to be sorted and processed in a kid's mind.
Some folks might say they wish children time to just be children. That's too exclusionary. Children are not some other strange species which was undiscovered before the industrial revolution and they are not lumps of unmolded clay who are going to use that time in the ways our adult minds have predetermined befit their childish identities.
Children need time and freedom to just be creatures of this world, this society, this community, this family and this body.

7.) I wish every child exploration

This ties into the previous one a bit. I'm not all for completely unguided learning, though my own educational philosophy tends toward the "unschooling" model, but independent exploration is a powerful intellectual stimulator.
They won't always come up with the "correct" theories on how things work, but they'll surprise you every once in a while and even the wildest flights of fanciful pseudo-science stimulate creativity and the imagination.
Children are born scientists and out of that science is born art and spirituality and most of all, questions. A child who doesn't explore will never have any questions worth asking.

6) I wish every child life

I don't mean that I wish that children were immortal. People, sometimes even young people, die. In the words of Neil Gaimen's Death: "You get what everyone else gets: a lifetime."
I mean that I wish for them to be surrounded by life. All of life which does include illness and death and birth and reproduction.
I wish for them to have wilderness to observe and explore and connect with, I wish for babies and geriatrics, those adolescent balls of unfocused energy and middle-aged determination.
I wish for them to have the opportunity to take each and every stage of it completely for granted on one level, so that they understand that none of it is completely granted on another.

5) I wish every child dominion over his or her own person

I'm not sure I need to explain this except that it only works if the next few wishes are already granted.

4) I wish every child adequate access to nutritious food and clean water and freedom from the fast food nation

When children's initial experiences with food are with healthy, fresh foods presented in a low-pressure manner, they develop the ability at a very young age to be in touch with how to properly nourish their own bodies.
It's only when the waters are muddied by the introduction of foods deliberately engineered to exploit the evolutionary cravings (salt, fat) for things that were once hard to come by that this instinct is derailed. Advertising and bribery with bright and shiny toys undoes the rest of it.

3) I wish every child casual, loving touch

Studies show over and over again that children from cultures where they are hugged and kissed and cuddled often turn out much lower rates of physical and sexual violence than those who are more physically reserved.
Freedom from bodily shame and anxiety born of feeling unrooted in their environment will enable children to make the decisions about their bodies that are right for them, and to leave other children to do the same.

2) I wish every child a local community to which they are an active, participating member

This ties into the responsibilities one way up there, but again it is important not just to raise children who can see how their actions and lack thereof effect those around them but also that they experience recognition of their own personal milestones.
Organized religion isn't necessarily the only way to go on this, but in marking the people in our surroundings at their key stages of development and growth (think birth/naming ceremonies, first communions, barmitzvahs, weddings, funerals) we help create fully engaged individuals. Furthermore, in a fractured society such as the one we live in, children and parents miss out on the kind of personalized support they need in times of difficulty.
It truly does take a village to raise a child, and children are increasingly denied the wealth of other people in their lives.

1) I wish every child clean, breathable air, forests, farms and fields, mountains, rivers and oceans full of fish...I wish every child a living, sustaining beautiful earth to walk on and enjoy.

If I Were Queen was originally published by Deni Baldwin at Spunsideways in 2007

No comments:

Post a Comment