She asked me to take her out into the snow.
The rest of the family, related by either blood or bond, and gathered for the yule/christmas celebration, is busy inside the house where the fire I have been tending keeps them warm. Some have been trying to tidy the living room, still strewn with torn paper and bows from packages unwrapped. The kitchen is a flurry of activity as the holiday meal is being prepared. Talk and banter suffuse the toasty air inside.
But it’s snowing outside and Taylor wants to go out and play in it.
Back inside, an entire rainbow of new plastic toys litter the floor, forgotten. Somewhere, an entire team of toy developers and marketing gurus are pulling their hair out in clumps as a little girl (and I hope, thousands, even millions like her) ignores the results of countless of hours of careful design and focus-group play-testing, in favor of the simple magic of crunching her way through fresh snowfall.
I watch her stretching out her arms to catch the falling crystals, and I am glad.
I have never wanted children of my own.
It’s not that I don’t like them. I actually think kids are pretty fantastic, in small doses and under controlled conditions (as if anything is every really under control where children are concerned).
I also happen to be quite good with them. This is a fact that often leaves those who think they know me well, but have never seen me around children, astonished. I really don’t seem the type, but at gatherings where children are present, I often end up entertaining them. Don’t tell anyone, but you can easily avoid dull conversation and engage in a fair bit of play when the other adults think you are just trying to keep the little ones occupied.
And they are so very hungry for attention from adults. It makes them so happy to be noticed at all.
Most of the time, when I see children at my workplace, the poor things have been dragged along like baggage by their parents, busy running errands. I see them gazing wide-eyed at all the people and things around them, trying to soak it all in. Sometimes they are fussy, or bored, or angry, and usually because their parents are ignoring them.
They act out, and their parents scold them, and then go right back to ignoring them again. I’m not a parent and I believe that I would make a very poor one, but I do know that if you only give your child attention when they misbehave (even if that attention is negative) they are going to act out all the more.
The children are watching us. They study our every move, learning what they need to know to survive and to interact with others. When you break your toys and then shout at me because you want them fixed, what lesson do you think you are teaching your children? To whom will you complain when they treat you in the same manner? What legacy will they then pass on to their own children?
Back outside, little Taylor is still wandering her way through a snow-covered fairyland.
She has new mittens but we forgot them inside and her hands are chilled in the winter air. Her fingers hurt a little, she says, but she does not want to come in from the cold just yet and I don’t push the issue. She’ll be okay for a few minutes more.
For the moment, she needs me to look out for her safety – yes, but not to ruin for her the magic of snow. Kids are resilient, far more so then we typically give them credit for. When her discomfort is enough she will want to come in on her own without me making the decision for her. We will warm her hands by the fire and she will feel the prickling numbness which slowly gives way to warmth that I remember being fascinated with as a child.
Let her be a child while she still can.
We must teach her to make her own decisions about the world around her, because soon enough folks will be lining up to make them for her.
Already, the Madison Avenue people are doing all they can to shape her likes and wants. They spew movies and cartoons which are little more than glorified advertisements, designed to sell their brightly colored bits of future landfill.
It will not be long now before the Texas State Board of Education, with it’s distorted views of history and science, gets its hooks into her. How much longer before Political Parties and Fundamentalist Religions begin to vie for her attentions, desperate to fill their diminishing ranks. These people don’t see a little girl, they see a resource waiting to be ground up and purified and made to power the engines of Rapacious Consumerism, Religious Orthodoxy and Conformist Ideology.
I can’t protect her from that and neither can her parents. No one can.
All I can do is to join her in play on those rare occasions we are gathered together. I can show her that she is worthy of the attention she naturally craves. I can show her that she does not have to be a slave to the wants of those who do not truly care for her well being, by not being a slave to them myself.
I can’t do it alone.
She is going to need many examples to follow if she is going to find her way out of the trap that our society has built for itself. If the fates are kind, she will find others who will not let her forget that snow IS magical, and that the best part of herself will always be that happy little girl who was made of sugar and spice…,