During this summer’s 5 week long Nitya Living Yoga Camp I had the blessing of witnessing the roles of being a parent and being a child. My daughter is nearly 20 years old and so much has changed in that time mostly from the technology explosion. When I was a young mom with a child there was no Facebook, internet was new, and there were no smart phones or i-pads. There wasn’t the sharing of your child’s every accomplishment or sweet captured moments in an ordinary day to share with family and friends. The ways I could connect with other moms was very limited. The World Wide Web has made a web in our communities and given us far more interaction and resources. But other things have changed too. Parents have changed how they raise their kids.
When a child at camp climbed a tree, the other kids were excited not out of joy but fear. They wanted me to get her down. I reassured them, that if she climbed up, surely she could find her way down. Which she did, eventually. When a disagreement between kids breaks out, I encourage them to listen to both sides and come up with their own solution. Which they do. I enjoy seeing which kids speak up and which ones hold back and how that changes over the weeks as the shy child may find more of their voice and the bolder ones may be a bit more tempered. I observe them figuring themselves out and navigating relationships and situations that are both comfortable and those that push that comfort zone.
We as adults are doing our kids a great disservice by over interfering in their ability to problem solve and resolve issues with their peers and themselves. We are not the hero in their every story. They need to figure out how they can be both the hero and the loser. Yep, we lose in life more than on one occasion. How are we preparing our children for adulthood by bubble wrapping their lives as they grow up?
In recent years when I don’t see a kid at camp that I was hoping would return, the reason I hear from their parents sometimes is they chose not to. Seriously? You are going to ask a 7 year old or 9 year old in the spring what they want to do in the summer? What if they’ve had a crappy day the day you ask them, what if they are too young to fathom what 4 months from now they could possibly be doing? And what’s with all the choices? Choices on activities, camps, trips, meals, snacks, clothes, etc.? I wasn’t given those choices. Were you? Did we suffer some great disservice because we weren’t included in that decision making? Oh, right, that is because we were children and children don’t always make these decisions parents do. We just did what we were told and often those choices made for us were fine, we didn’t even know there was another option.
At yoga camp we serve incredibly healthy lunches and snacks and there is no buffet, just one plate or bowl of yummy food. If you are hungry then you will likely eat and if not, a teacher will gently encourage you to for no other reason than your body needs nourishment to have the energy to get through your day. Probably the biggest compliment I receive throughout the camp days is how surprised parents are by what their child will eat. Positive peer pressure helps too when the kids around you are enjoying their food.
As parents we want our children to be healthy and happy. That’s it. Where we have gone astray is that we somehow think that by giving them more of a voice, more power, more decision making that we are ensuring their health and happiness but in reality what I see is that parents have added to their kid’s stresses and anxiety. And you know what, I think it has added to parent’s stresses and created more anxiety for them too. They are children, let them be children for as long as they choose to be.