How we treat children

One of the first things I loved about you is your kindness to children–it makes me melt every time.

6600024dde7a132a10aaa85d70d1d081.jpgWithout the child he’s just a guy with launch codes sprinting strangely indoors

Children hence function as a bridge between power and humanity in societies that are oppressively, scarily hierarchical. They provide an opportunity – in our age, the single greatest opportunity – for the powerful to rehearse their capacities for kindness, without looking weak, half-witted or slightly unhinged.

When powerful people are gentle with children (usually their own), they reassure us that they understand vulnerability and know how to be sweet towards weakness. Their ease meets our fears. After seeing him on an impromptu play-date, we can take comfort in the idea that President Obama won’t ever curtly say to a restless child keen for a run-around: ‘Shape up or ship out’. And that signals that he probably wouldn’t do the same to us either, even if we’re not three feet high or eager to chase him round the Resolute desk.

The shameful secret of adult life is that it’s not just children who are child-like. We are all intermittently hysterical, terrified, pitiful and in dire need of consolation and forgiveness. Without bearing grudges, adults tend to be nice to children even when they’re not at their best. Around children, we know how to offer a generosity of interpretation, and a sensitive recalibration of our expectations. No-one thinks a six year old is an idiot because she can’t do long-division; we just accept that it will take a bit of time for her to learn. When children get ill-tempered in the car, we don’t think they have it in for us; we recognise boredom makes people slightly desperate. We’re that bit slower to anger; that bit more alive to potential.

We all deserve more of this kind of attention – but we don’t generally get it. We readily offer children the sort of kindness that we are woefully reluctant to offer one another. We want a world where people are nice to their own children. But even more than that, what we want is a world where people are nice to the childlike parts of other people, including people who aren’t their children, and most of all, nice to those slightly shameful, deeply human and childlike parts of us.

via {the school of life}

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