Childhood Chronicles: The Human Connection
My childhood was all about stuffed toys, role play, story books, poetry, board games, skateboarding and cycling. I was surrounded by emotion, nature and people. Back then, my parents understood that I needed other children to socialize and develop my life skills. There was a need to learn from each other. A strong need for that ‘human connection’.
I would say that in the absence of cell phones, iPads, laptops and social media, my childhood was still quite happening. My learning came through people. I learned to read faces, body language, moods and expressions at a very tender age. That helped me deal with people better and taught me the tricks to persuade and it also provided me with the space to be understood.
As a child, my idea of enjoying myself meant being out and about. Splashing muddy water in the rain, running and playing in the winter sun, cycling with my brothers around the neighborhood streets, going to the park to watch the latest craze of ‘skateboarding’. It was looking forward to my grandma’s visits and all the Islamic stories that came with her. The awe that came through such knowledge and wisdom. The art of story-telling was embedded forever.
I also remember the value of boredom. Each time that I had no one to talk to, or play with, I created something to fill that void. Once, bored with my stuffed toys, I took an old discarded piece of cloth and cut it to the shape of a rabbit. I filled it up with old shirts and with a needle and thread, I produced my own bunny rabbit. A lot of my time was spent writing letters and oh the joy of receiving mail in that letter box! I don’t think the electronic inbox could ever match that feeling! To this day, I have 100’s of letters from aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and even my brothers! These letters made me more aware of my importance and worthiness as an individual and gave me my strong sense of belonging and identity.
As a child, I started writing poetry. I wrote my first poem at the age of 10. The emotional intelligence had matured enough to give birth to lyrical language. I could make meaning out of small gestures, words spoken and their abstract connotations. There was a sense of purpose and fulfillment at a young age. I knew my voice mattered.
Today, when I look at children, I find them to be smarter and more critical of things around them. But what I find starkly missing in their lives, is a sense of achievement, purpose and identity. Their electronic gadgets have given them the space to explore and connect, but what they have robbed them off, is their sense of self.
They are exposed to shallow structures, plastic speeches, and synthetic relationships within the cyber world. In this world of technology, where every bit of our existence is powered by an alternative to self, where we are lured to create such fake identities, how do we teach our children to feel pride in who they are and help them understand that what they have to offer to the world is respected and enough. Where and how do we draw the line? This pretentious self-existence is not what childhood is all about.
One of the greatest challenges of our lives today is to switch that Wi-Fi connection to Human Connection. We have to make an effort to make our children sit down and tell them what great writers they are, just how much we appreciate their sense of right and wrong. How happy we are to see them excel at sports, how proud we feel when they accommodate others to make them happy, just how touched we are to watch them express their emotions, just how thrilled we are to be around them and what a great difference they make in everyday life. We need to touch their lives in a way that helps them make sense of all that’s around them and what a significant role they hold in transforming lives. Setting high expectations in this regard is vital.
Childhood is about fun and play, but it is also a time to discover self. A time to uncover potential and possibilities. The emotional intelligence crucial to this moment in time doesn’t come through technology, but the indispensable human touch.
By Shama Mir