Every summer I travel to Colorado and New Hampshire. I return to the families that have been with our camp for years. I return to the children who - in short time - make leaps and bounds in their growth. I marvel, at the end of each season, at the ways in which their growth has inspired my own.
That is to say, childhood is good for adulthood. By creating a landscape in which children can direct their own unique experiences, we tailor our own process of personal growth. We model the way we would like to be treated and practice how we would like to see the world. The following are elements of that landscape, foundational pieces that, while seemingly implicit, can get lost in the trying-so-hard, self sacrifice of child-rearing/ teaching.
I’ve written the list from a child’s perspective because it’s the little one in me that has all the good ideas. (She can be a little verbose.)
Love - A feeling of being cherished, important, beautiful, irreplaceable. A knowing that what we love and create will also be treasured.
Safety - The understanding that we are taken care of. The reliability in the environment, in people, that allows us to be vulnerable. The knowing that we will be heard, which often gives way to curiosity about what others have to say.
Trust - We need the confidence of our care-givers in order to build confidence ourselves. This means trusting us to make mistakes, to take risks and to problem solve on our own.
Freedom - This is similar to trust, but also involves having access to natural spaces, the opportunity to roam and explore. To encourage an open, curious mind, our parents, our teachers must re-open their minds. We need a connection with nature where we find space from the normalization of social behavior. Being in nature tones the nervous system. It helps to establish a feeling of place in the great meaning of things. Freedom, lack of judgement, opens us, relaxes us and welcomes all that we are.
Forgiveness - Raising children forces all who are meaningfully invested, to look at themselves. There is no metric for this, no reading list, no 200-hour certification. There is only the willingness to see what is hard to look at and the courage to let oneself transform through the regular (often difficult) opportunities that come with proximity to growing humans. Our most powerful tool in this process is forgiveness. This refers, of course, to the forgiveness of children, but more importantly, to oneself.
A Sense of Fucking Humor - Everything is hard without this.