The moral dilemmas of the 21st century toddler – pusher or walk, babyccino or milkshake, to a tantrum or not to a tantrum? Oh, the pressure! The anguished look, the internal struggle, the existential angst – I drink babychino, therefore I am! Could life really be any more challenging?!
Well, if you’re a toddler, the answer to that should be “no.” And that’s the way it should be, because toddlers shouldn’t know real challenges. Our little ones should enjoy simplicity, and be cloistered from all things scary and sad. They shouldn’t know what it is to struggle, and should be kept away from life’s sharp edges. Toddlers should be protected at all costs, from any whiff of anything even vaguely unpleasant, should be directed away from harsh realities, and wrapped up in love and blissful ignorance for as long as possible.
Unfortunately for all of us, our lounge rooms are filled with the sights and sounds of war and famine, with stories of violence, misery and destruction. Every day our televisions, radios and computers spew forth things which keep grown-ups awake at night, challenge our senses of security and safety, and make us look over our shoulders. They may not always be real, or understood, but they cause damage all the same. Three-year-olds don’t have the capacity to discern truth from fiction, but their capacity for fear is very well developed.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could protect them even after their infant years, right into their teens and twenties? Things seem to get all too real, all too early these days. Childhood seems to reach its shelf life before our kids are properly prepared for adulthood, but once that innocence, that simplicity is gone, it cannot be reclaimed.
We cannot take away fear as easily as it takes our little ones. And we cannot explain with logic, what they do not fully understand, but which scares them nonetheless. Preventative measures are all we have.
We can control what comes into our homes through the various media, and veto everything we’re not entirely comfortable with. We should be conscious of dinner time conversation and sensor discussion whilst small ones are present. We should think carefully before exposing our kids to certain people, certain places and certain situations, and be prepared to take protective steps to avoid exposing them to conflict. As parents, we must always keep the lines of communication open, keep our eyes open for signs of distress, and deal with them as soon as they are evident.
Real life has a terrible habit of rearing its ugly head whenever and wherever it’s least wanted. And it causes our kids to have to grow up faster than we’d like them to. To shield them, we must make ourselves aware of where the dangers lie, and launch full on assaults against the things which pose risk. We may not be able to head them all off, but we may be able to salvage some of their divine innocence until they’re equipped to deal with all that real life has to throw at them.
What will you do to preserve your kids’ innocence? What have you already done? Did it work?