What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from www.wallpaperswide.com

Artist Raindropmemory from http://www.wallpaperswide.com

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

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Empty Promises.

That is exactly what New Year’s resolutions are. I won’t pretend that going to the gym is something I want to do, or even be fooled in thinking I could keep it up.

It baffles me when one chooses to lose weight, quit smoking, generally be a nicer person at this particular point of the year. I assume we all know how the calendar works, so why do we pick the first of January? Surely choosing a superficial turning point discredits the real objective.

Today did not feel any different from yesterday and I have had no desire to celebrate writing ’12’ instead of ’11’. If anything, I am mourning 2011, for the turning of the year only means I am forever ageing. Oh yes, the pessimist in me strikes again.

This does not mean we should all remain stagnant in reminiscing what’s gone, nor does it mean future goals shouldn’t be set. I have lots of goals and time frames for them, but to suddenly declare them because of the change of date seems all a bit odd to me. My goals are ongoing and do not necessarily start at the beginning of each year.

I like to think my goals are about the bigger picture, not just for me, but my family. To see how many successes we can accumulate in a year, as opposed to limit ourselves trivially to eat less biscuits. Success shouldn’t be measured upon a list made up during the January blues, but something we all work towards in continual progress. Being loosely committable because it’s the trend to make resolutions takes away from the seriousness of your goals; they should be applicable at any given point of the year.

No Such Luck.

Luck (Noun)

Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions: it was just luck that the first kick went in, this charm was supposed to bring good luck.

• Chance considered as a force that causes good or bad things to happen: Luck was with me.

• Something regarded as bringing about or portending good or bad things: I don’t like Friday – it’s bad luck.

Luck assumes that something has taken place out of your control, as if it was always going to happen or never at all. It accepts an external force that oversees us all has predetermined our fate; your choices and the efforts you put into something has no effect on what will inevitably be.

What actually happens is all our hard work is deduced to one word and the presumption that ‘luck’ decided it, and thus it happened. We forget when we use phrases like ‘you’re so lucky’ and ‘good luck’, that we are ultimately degrading the situation; as if the person was incapable of succeeding in their own right and have to rely on a greater force. People say we are lucky for our achievements, but in actuality it takes away from the hardship and continuous perseverance to succeed in our goals. In reality, the most fortunate ones in life are people who work hard for it. You do not become accomplished, progressive or successful based on luck, unless you went to Eaton.

DH bought me a new charm for my Pandora bracelet when I got my new job - not because I was lucky, but because it's pretty.