Children's shadow's behind bars

Lately, I’ve been in a slump. I’ve been sleeping early, waking up late and eating foods that don’t really serve the “my body is a temple” principle. This morning I woke up and realised that all the health, sleep and exercise in the world means nothing without passion.

That is what I’ve been sorely lacking: passion. Inspiration. The excitement of the future. These things have always driven me. So what has cast its shadow over my future and drained it of joy and vibrancy?

In the last 6 months I’ve seen more children damaged by schooling than ever before. I’ve had more than handful of students leave in order to find a schooling system that would better serve them in their quest to be educated. All of this hurts.
It hurts to say goodbye to children that I’ve taught.
It hurts to know that more will leave.

So, what I really woke up feeling was a sense of imprisonment. And just as the miner hammers away at the stone walls of his mine, I cracked away at the walls of my understanding, delving for answers. The moment that the pressure gave way and the cracks opened up, I became excited.

Excited over feeling imprisoned? No, excitemed over understanding that I believe I’m imprisoned. The philosopher, Ram Daas said, “If you believe you are free, there is no escape.”

Well, to some extent I started believing in the idea of my own freedom. I have Ram Daas’s statement committed to memory and it rolls back to my mind every once in a while like a wave, waking me up from the fantasies I’ve been living. I have become more than a little comfortable in my job. Comfort in itself isn’t dangerous, but it has a way of dulling the senses, the intuition and even the passion. Comfort can be tricky.

Prison to Freedom

Children remind me constantly that yes, freedom may be an idea, but so is the idea of imprisonment. Just two perspectives on opposite sides of a spectrum. Our real power comes in our ability to choose our perspective on life. If I look at the 7 year olds that I teach, most of them have a degree of freedom that is as fresh as a sea breeze. Life is filled with magic they don’t quite understand,, but their logic is strong. Each moment is a place to be explored. Questions about everything and anything are always on the table. Nothing is taboo.

And then they get a little older. Suddenly, there are things that cannot be spoken about. There are agendas to be completed. There are things to be attained. Slowly, competition starts to overshadow cooperation. Exploration and learning trickle out of life, replaced by goals of recognition or maybe fitting in.

Somewhere along the way, freedom is lost. Correction, not lost…misplaced. So how do we find it again? And how do we help our children find it again? Or even just help them not to lose track of it?

Teaching Children the Essence of Freedom

Most children have the essence of freedom woven into them. It comes from the love they received from their families as they grew. It continues to fuel them in ways that they don’t understand, because it’s with them every day. But at some point we must let go and allow our children into the world. This is daunting and scary, but if we send them out with the right tools, they’ll be able to grow in the right direction and maintain the essence of freedom they have carried from day one.

True freedom comes from seeing life as play. Marshall Rosenberg restated that, “life should be play. You should not do anything that isn’t play.” A lot of people are confused by this statement. Does this mean that my children don’t have to clean their rooms, go to school or even leave the television?

There’s a great big misunderstanding about the word “play”. Play is more than just a physical experience. Play is a way of seeing the world. Play is the essence of freedom. When we are playing, we are truly free.
It doesn’t matter where we are.
It doesn’t matter what we’re doing.
It doesn’t matter what we have.

A great movie that illustrates this point about play is Life is Beautiful. If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favour and get your hands on a copy. The movie will change the way you understand freedom, love and play.

Click on the photo to find a copy on Amazon.

In the movie, a Jewish-Italian man has the misfortune of having his 4 year old son with him in a prisoner of war camp. However, he convinces his son that they have been entered into an epic game of hide and seek. The winner will get a ride in a real tank.

The film is a heart-breaking inspiration, showing that we don’t really need to be free to teach freedom. We need to change our perspective and use our creativity to play our way into freedom.

An Example of Finding Freedom

I could be shackled to the wall of a dark, damp cell, barefoot and cold. But the moment that I start to sing, I’m playing; I’m creating. A metallic key clinks at my door and a deafening metallic thud shakes the floor as the guards pour into my cell. They duct tape my mouth, encouraging me not to sing.

Now I have no voice. But I have my eyes, my hearing and my sense of smell. Each of these could be turned into a game. I have my feet and my hands. The guards could storm in and take away each one of these things and leave me only with my breath and my imagination. And still I would be free. I would plot my escape and each moment I would look for new ways to find my freedom.

Maybe my escape would be too far-fetched. Maybe my body would die a few days later. Would it matter? No, because my spirit, my passion and my vital force was engaged in the creative work that was set out before it. I was at play. I died at play.

How to Share the Message with Children

Playing means more than turning on a game console, iPad or smartphone. To play means to look at the resources in your environment, the things that you have at your disposal. It means looking at the people, the rules and the context in which you find yourself. Then shaping it in a way that allows you to enjoy it however you want to.

To start building this sort of understanding in your children, start asking them questions about their favourite games:

  • What are the rules in this game?
  • What is the point of this game?
  • Who are the other players involved in the game?
  • Do you use your imagination in the game?
  • How can you make yourself even better at playing the game?
  • Why do you play this game?
  • What do you love most about this game?
  • What part of this game make you really excited?

There are many more questions you can ask, but at the core of the conversation, the information your children give you will go a long way towards helping you understand the other places in their lives that they could turn into play.

Next, find out one thing they mildly dislike doing. As a kid I hated cleaning my room. I didn’t see a point to it. So I’ll use that as an example to ask myself a few questions:

  • What are the house rules about cleaning your room?
  • Why do you even have to clean your room?
  • Who are the other “players” involved in the house game?
  • How can you turn cleaning up your room into a game?
  • How can you make cleaning your room another way of playing?

Look, this isn’t a fool-proof science. You will encounter resistance to the these questions. Why? Because thinking creatively is hard work. Persist though and you’re giving your children a gift that will shape their lives…the ability to turn each moment into something to be enjoyed. The gift of play. The gift of freedom.

© The Brilliance Quotient 2017

© The Brilliance Quotient 2017

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