WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT THEM?
Can you imagine Hamelin after the Pied Piper took away all the children? No noise, no spills, no messes, no schools, no homework, no Nintendo, nobody pestering you for anything? The only places we know of without them are army camps, work camps, convents and monasteries, retirement villages, places where adults find relief.
A home is the capsule of any culture. When you visit another country you must visit a home before you can truly know it. The home must include children. You cannot understand a people unless you see where they first opened their eyes, the environment they drank in before they could stand up and make trouble.
Society smiles benignly on parents until the children are five or six, insisting primarily on lack of physical abuse. However, before this time they have had a definite effect on our culture. Our child has learned the language of the family and the neighborhood so well that it is ingrained. If the babies did not learn the language, the language would die. Efforts have been made by dominant cultures to stamp out despised languages by isolating the children and forbidding them to speak it. This has worked, but not often. Latin is a dead language even though up until this century most educated people knew it and it was the official language of the Catholic Church. People did not soak it up as do children, but studied it in school – much too late to revive it. The only language to be truly revived is Hebrew because there was a concerted effort to teach it to babies.
The traditions, the ceremonies of any culture are preserved by the children. You might have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, but if you have children you are sure to. Where would Christmas be without the children? Santa Claus would not be the same at all if nobody believed in him. Hannukah is for children. Parents remember how it was for them and truly want to show the children the special beauty. Midsummer Day is a pagan holiday which no new religion could squelch. Every culture has these days with special cakes, special dances, special times to remember. Many of these rituals go back for hundreds of years unchanged. Without childhood participation they would never last. Children, especially the school-age children, love ritual. They become quite teary-eyed over singing the proper songs for the proper holidays. Adults keep the rituals going for the sake of the children, but mostly because they were once children themselves.
Children are a source of human love. When a child smiles, the most jaded adult will smile back and leave even the smallest encounter with a child refreshed. Parents are no longer rational human beings when their children are under discussion. Their eyes shine with glory. During wartime it is considered far worse to kill a child than to kill an equally innocent man. When you have a child there is someone who will always love you no matter what happens, even if he stops talking to you. Children need your love, and they are ready with their own variety.
Children are a source of oral tradition. Before the advent of writing they listened to the elders and remembered everything. They have the photographic memories to make it possible.
Jokes that are told to children are never lost. Jumping rope rhymes stay with us for generations completely forgotten by the adults. Stories told to children remaian in the culture forever, even though the adults don’t even like them.
Geographically speaking, children keep a society in place. They imbibe an eternal love for the place where they live in the first years. Even though they may have wanderlust, later on there will always be a craving for home base. They will think glowingly of the wide open spaces of the prairie where you can see forever, of the majesty of the mountains reaching to the heavens, of the clear air of the desert, the call of the sea and the surf. It keeps most of us in place, enough of us to keep the society stable.
Children keep our oral tradition. They have the memory for it. Writing was invented by merchants, scholars refused to use it. They said that if men learned to read and write their memories would atrophy and they would have the appearance of knowledge without knowledge itself. It is indeed true that illiterates have better memories than the rest of us, they have retained their childhood abilities. We have not as much oral literature as do illiterate countries, but we have some. Folk tales and fairy stories have come down to us intact from the Old Stone Age because they are told to the children. If we think about it, the story of Cinderella is probably more widely and more accurately known than even the story of Hamlet or Othello.
Children keep our neighborhoods stable. Parents are apt to stay in one place for their sake. They are also less likely to change jobs, more likely to save their money. Lasting friendships are made amongst neighbors whose children play together or go to the same school.
Children keep adults on a straight and narrow path in many ways. It is hard for adults to lie, cheat, or steal when they are watching, and their eyes are everywhere. Teachers as well as parents are forced onto pedestals.
Children enable adults to see their own parents in a new light. For the first time they begin to realize that their parents did the best they could, that their shortcomings are not so important after all.
There wouldn’t be any schools without children. Schools try for standardization in order to equalize the opportunities they offer, but schools are also shaped by the children who attend them. Everyone knows that children need to “feel at home” there, so teachers adapt themselves accordingly. Schooling is an attempt by society to fit the young into its mold so as to prepare them for success within its system. It does this rather well. Schools also take care of children during the day.
Children take up much public money, mostly in the form of the schools they attend. Buildings must be safe, curriculums need planning, teachers are assiduously trained in our universities. In some countries parents are given a stipend for each child by the government. Health clinics are provided by most societies.
No, we wouldn’t be the same without these little creatures to share our lives!
by Marietta Rawson