Being Young Will Always Be Difficult

Today is National Jumper Day and my children’s school recognised it as part of an effort to raise funds for Save the Children. Being the sort of person that I am, my children have no such item of clothing in their wardrobe nor did I intend to buy one specifically for this. Bite me!

They obviously have jumpers so I thought we could ‘jazz it up’ (to use my mother’s speak) with some badges they had – no less than Michael Jackson badges. They both seemed pretty happy wearing it when they left home today but I kind of knew that when they got to school there would be all sorts of jumpers much more vibrant than theirs. In an attempt to prepare them, I mentioned it on our way to school just so that they could be prepared for the onslaught of ‘amazing’ jumpers.

When I picked them up after school, I was curious how they coped with it. You know that phrase, ‘curiosity killed the cat’? I should have left things as they were – happy and calm. It turned out that when they saw all the colourful Christmas jumpers they were jealous. My son who is older, was a lot sadder than my daughter; she simply hated the colour of the jumper but my son seemed very upset by it and the feelings he experienced. I guess from an eight year-old’s perspective, you really want to be a part of the ‘party’.

What could I say that would make ‘sense’ to children so young? I attempted to have a discussion about contentment and the fact that we can’t always have what we want and lots of people will always have something we want. I told my son that it’s natural to feel jealous because he looked so different from everyone else and they seemingly had nicer jumper. However, he had to be as confident in what he had as when he left home this morning; irrespective of what others around him have. Who am I kidding, right? They just wanted the blastedĀ jumpers and I will go and buy a pair this weekend.

If I had the time, perhaps I would have got them the jumpers but it was just one more thing I couldn’t fit in this week. In my defence, I did warn them about it and the school categorically said that we didn’t need to go out and buy anything and suggested colours which I kept to with the added bonus of my flashy badges. SMH. I should feel bad I guess but I don’t really. In the grand scheme of things, they are going to have to navigate a lot more than jumpers plus right now I can hear them laughing and playing only an hour after.

No doubt it’s tougher being young nowadays with social media and the level of information out there. However, it’s always been tough to be a child. Irrespective of the time, era or space, children through the ages have always had to navigate the terrain of appropriate social norms, behaviour, friendships, being popular or not and of course peer pressure. The temptation is to try and shield children from navigating these challenges on their own by giving them what they want or all they want. That’s a futile effort as they will still need to learn how to stand on their own as confident human beings. Of course understanding their pressures is useful but it’s never going to take away the pressures. The sooner they learn the art of contentment and being happy with ‘me’, the better I think.

By God’s grace they won’t end up on some couch telling a therapist how their mother stifled their creativity or held them back when she put them in boring jumpers to school.

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