As a life-long advocate for children’s wellbeing, this is a very real and vulnerable share for me but I know that many of my kids have been feeling the same way that I have lately without knowing how to verbalize their experience or even understand what is happening to them. It is this that gives me the courage to share my own experience because I and all of us are a part of this very real and toxic experience.
This past month, I went through a really tough personal time of introspection. I felt like I was failing at my purpose (to shift the way the world views autism and any other differences… My wish is for the world to see each other from the eyes of soul and to value everyone for who they are and not what or how much they contribute).
I dedicate myself to this every day and trust me when I say that I live and breathe my purpose. But lately I felt such a deep sense of personal failure because despite everything I do, I’m still not as “big” as I’d like to be. I don’t have the millions of followers, I don’t have my programs in 100s of schools, I don’t have my book published, I don’t have large donors for my foundation… Every night when I go to sleep, I wish I had more hours in the day to do more, create more, produce more. And the sad part is that I don’t value fully everything I DID create because I’m always looking to do more.
I live out my dream every day, yet instead of basking in the gratitude of everything I love that I am experiencing, I turn against myself as a failure because I haven’t produced enough.
This is what we are teaching our children and we have to become more aware of it so that they can fully be present in every stage of their lives. Let’s not rob them of the present moment to just be kids.
I ask everyone to ask themselves when did we start valuing productivity over the wellbeing of children, productivity over play, productivity over childhood. Valuing DO-ing over simple BE-ing? Children are born masters of simply BEing. With time however, we teach them to value doing and productivity over allowing them to be themselves. (Please don’t misread. This is not a judgement this is to raise awareness of how we all, including myself, contribute to this).
Our school systems push academics over developmental appropriateness. Parents create packed schedules for their children. Play dates, after school sports, tutors, therapy, appointments. Children early on adhere to schedules, time for school, time for showers, time for a book, time for bed. We unknowingly teach children that we value productivity over allowing them to just be, play, explore, touch, and get bored. In fact, many of our children are having a hard time just playing without the need to be entertained.
I finally got back to myself this past week – reminded myself why I do what I do. I have always said to myself, even if I’ve done all this to affect one life then it’s all worth it…. I got a little sidetracked by measuring my success by the wrong metrics of productivity.
Today I commit to enjoying everything that I experience in the present moment. I will not allow the love of what I do to become tainted by the productivity expectations that I set for myself-based on a faulty notion of value.
Let’s do the same for our children. Bring back play. Slow down time. Value effort over the marks they get on a test, value down time, make time for nature, stillness, exploration, family, appreciation for the simple things. Value BE-ing over DO-in so that our children learn to value themselves just because they are and not because they need to do in order to feel valued.