I am a worrier, by nurture. I grew up in a world where danger lurked around every corner, I was told. Even though most times these dangers never materialized, I was always on the lookout, always expecting the worst. Parents often engage in a debate about how much reality children should be exposed to. Do you tell your kids the truth when the family dog passes away, or does the dog suddenly go to live on a farm in the countryside? Do we explain what goes on when they catch a glimpse of the news and ask questions? Some parents prefer to have their children live in a world of fairy tales for as long as possible to keep them “safe” from the harsh realities of the world but is this really the best way? (Never mind that the wolf actually swallows Little Red Ridding Hood’s grandmother alive and has his stomach cut open to free her in a rather graphic twist of events, or that Sleeping Beatify lies helpless for a hundred years until her prince penetrates the pesky overgrowth with his large sword and saves her with a kiss.. A bit disturbing all of it…)
Children who grow up without learning what the world is really like, grow up into pretty anxious adults usually. Without realistic expectations of what is out there, the world seems a pretty scary place, especially when your adults either paint only a rosy picture or present it as a place replete with danger. Sure, there are “bad” people and things out there, but this is why children need to be educated about what to expect, not shielded from it. A child’s perspective is dichotomous – they see things as “good” and “bad”, “safe” or “dangerous” but few things in real life are really that clear-cut. If an adult doesn’t allow, doesn’t guide other perspectives to develop, a child will grow into adulthood with this dichotomous, limited worldview. Such a perspective doesn’t take one very far. In this worldview we like good and fear bad and since at least half of what we understand is bad, there is lots to fear.
I watched Star Wars the other day, for the first time ever. In my mind it’s a children’s movie, with the cheesy adventures and unfathomable, soap-opery plot twits. And my mind reverted to that childish “good vs. evil” way of seeing the world that was unfolding in the film, as well as the characters. The ones that were “bad” or mean to that main characters, immediately became unlikable. But the fact is, we all have emotion attached to these archetypes to some degree and the more we can get away from that way of thinking by understanding the complexities and intricacies of what’s out there, the more we all benefit as a species. And the earlier we start teaching this to our children, the better.