Art, Philosophy, Science

December 16, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was the great Greek philosopher Aristotle who said: “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” Meaning also: she …the woman; the person…the adult.

He said it a long time ago but when I went to check for sure that it was Aristotle’s comment, it was at the top of the search as soon as I wrote “give me the ….” This says how very much the thought remains current.

Patricia and I were talking about this last night, over dinner and a glass of red wine (Italian) and I pushed again on my conviction that education begins at the very beginning at home. When those children are brand new and growing so quickly, they are sponges absorbing everything around them. This means attitudes, arguments and other social interaction, affection, rejection, understanding, caring in everything.

Newborns depend on the adults in their lives for all their needs and their tools of communication can be quite complicated, even if limited. The parent will know the difference in a cry and very, very soon facial expressions can tell it all. 

Total dependence doesn’t last long and the bid for independent action starts surprisingly soon. All this early transition will have heard, will have learned much more than one would expect, given that our memories do not usually extend back into babyhood. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Likely, our memories, with all their failings begin around the time we start speaking. Then is the time, too, when we begin to imitate those around us. Do they make hurtful jokes about gender or a person’s appearance? Do they demean others for a level of work or education? How about racial slurs – are they part of the at-home dialogue? What are the interactions between the adults at home? How do they behave with people outside the home? What are the power struggles, the violence, the distribution of work? What is requested – or demanded – of the children themselves within the family structure?

Is there respect for each other; is there a system of authority and oppression?

All this builds and/or depresses the growth and development of our young children and if we send them to a day care too young, we must make really sure we are well acquainted with the people who run it, not only for safety’s sake but also for attitude and balance.

Of course, my personal gripe and doctors and scientists are issuing the same warnings: children are engaged with big and little screens, interacting with them far too young. It is vital that children work with their own hands, eyes and their brains really in those early years. To draw with pencil, crayon and paper; to construct with [lego!] real materials; to see in fact, not in theory how things go together, how pages in a book actually turn – this is all essential in the early learning years before they ever go through the doors of other people’s influence.

All access to the Internet should be off to children under the age of five and after that, be scrutinized and limited. For whatever are the pleasures and benefit of the internet, it is still the wild west, a non-place with no laws and no enforcement, with unforeseen traps and influences of harm. We should all understand that a virtual experience is not a real experience; it is only the shadow of experience and especially in these cautious times about being together really, we must take care that virtual does not become the main source of experience.

There is a big difference between feeling the wind in our hair and watching it blow through someone else’s hair on a screen.

Being a parent is one of the most responsible positions a person ever holds, truly an honour to be called “Mommy” or “Daddy.” To my mind, a lot of thought about that honour is needed ahead of becoming pregnant or pursuing an adoption, some idea what answers might be ready for the childish questions to when a child is there to ask them. Consideration about predictable situations, creating a store of preparedness whether that sounds possible or not. A strong set of memories, looking at the positive and the negative because it is largely our job as parents to create memories of which we can be proud.

I have always loved being Patricia’s mother. We have travelled far and wide and she speaks three languages. She is very erudite, with a wide knowledge of religions, politics, the law and economics. She is a musician and a fine writer, a caring and wonderful person but tough when needs must.

When she was born, we were in the UK and our family was all in Canada. I told our friends that they were each responsible to teach her something of value and she had her own relationships with them. It was great to watch how much that meant to all of them – and to her.

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