A strongly held opinion is not something we arrive at lightly. Normally it is born of life experience, and grows over time to be reinforced, eventually becoming crystallized into a foundational structure for every action we take on a daily basis. The belief has become so ingrained we operate within it, without even understanding why.
We arrive at adulthood early in life, but from the day we leave our parents until the day we die, we operate within the life structure provided to us during our formative years. For this reason, the study of early childhood development has always fascinated me. When I observe a “dysfunctional” adult, I immediately see a child who has had some kind of early childhood life trauma. One can only imagine.
I had to stop trying to do interventions on these people. They are already lost. Though this seems a harsh stance, it has saved me from disaster more than a few times. I am now using my personal energy and resources to assist young families with the arduous task of rearing healthy adults who will eventually do the same when their turns come. As a mother who has completed the cycle of launching three daughters, I have enjoyed observing them “getting it right” even among huge piles of laundry, and supper boiling over on the stove. Their children absolutely glow. And they have friends with kids just like them, which gives me great optimism about the future of this world.
Mom was a school teacher, one of those very gifted and energetic individuals who could bring talent from nearly any child. When she retired she said sadly, “Give me a child five years old, and I will tell you whether he will succeed or fail in life.” WHAT?!! She went on to explain her opinion. “By age five, the foundation for the rest of his life has been set. His love of learning, his courage, his willingness to cooperate within a group, and many other things are already in place. When he arrives in the classroom devoid of good experiences it is nearly impossible to reverse the damage.”
Wow. This was a very heavy thought for me as a young mother. I played devil’s advocate, sounding the depths of her position to be sure she had said something she could defend, because if it were true, it meant parents play a critical role in the general health of our entire society. Before we finished she had explained it has nothing much to do with religion, political views, or even the public schools. Great kids and bad come from homes. HOMES.
Now I am a “wisdom carrier” myself, one of the “elders” who observe from the sidelines, watching young families struggle with decisions that could break a heart, yet still must be made. They consult me daily, looking for some hint, a clue, some guidance in the process.
A little known secret of the elders is never spoken. I will take the risk here. The secret is simply this: There is no escape. None. You must do the work of LOVE, and it takes a lifetime to understand all that this implies. Ironically, it is what any newborn knows from its first moments. We are born with every tool, every willingness to learn, every good intention, and too much trust.
All we can do as parents is preserve this or mess it up. By age five, the windows are closed. The child enters the larger world with the evidence of our choices. The most important work we can do in life is to rear children with their tools, their willingness to learn, and their love and trust intact. If we get even close to right, we have made an impact on the world at large.
When you have time, watch a large group of young children at play, and without a doubt, you will be able to spot a child who glows and a child whose light has been diminished. One will graduate with honors, and the other one will have a criminal record later in life. Sound extreme? Think what you want to.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Thomas Jefferson was referring to men all over the world. For us to return to sanity in America, we must, MUST extend these tenets to include our children at the earliest formative stages.
Be a light carrier, for the days are dark ahead. We must martial ever resource, and this includes our foundation, the children. They are the real wisdom carriers. If you doubt it, sit down and talk to one of them.