There it was on the store shelf – a metal lunch box for school children. Walking down one of the aisles in the supermarket today I could not help seeing it. Something colorful about Dr. Seuss on the exterior.
I paused and picked it up. I rubbed the back of my fingers lightly across the smooth thin metal exterior. Then my fingers found the latch on the top and opened the lunch box. The same shiny metal interior that I remember from a time now nearly 50 years ago.
For a moment, memories not often thought of rushed back to my conscious mind. Sounds and images. The laughter of my classmates, the uniforms we wore to our religious school, the games played at recess, field trips taken, etc.
For a brief, fleeting moment, some of the novelty, the excitement of and for life came back to me. For a child, so much is new, novel and exciting. So much arouses curiosity. A child has a natural zest for life.
For an instant or two, I was back on the playground, in the classroom, in the car pool going to school early in the day.
Early childhood, for us in the 1960s, was a care free time, a time of blissful ignorance. My classmates and I, in those early grades of school, were aware of some of the problems in the world around us, but these did not weigh us down or seriously intrude on our innocence. We saw the evening news on television. We were aware of the Vietnam war raging, the college campuses in uproar, the riots and cities burning, and the assassinations in 1968 of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. We saw that these things were upsetting to our parents and to other adults. But, these things were not so concrete, not so real, and not of immediate importance or concern for us.
Pity the young children in other parts of the world, back then, and now (today), whose childhoods were (or are now) ruined by wars, famines, religious violence, despotic regimes, etc.
Looking back over the decades, I can honestly say that the time in grade school was the only care free time of my life.
Back then, many mothers were “housewives”. My mother made my lunch each morning and put it in such a metal box for me to take to elementary school. Sometimes, there were grapes in the lunch box and often skinned and sliced apples and bananas. Of course, some type of sandwich was included each day. These simple efforts showed that she cared about her children.
When our son was in elementary school it may have been his grandmother who made his lunch for him each day. Our “daycare” was my wife’s extended family. We, my wife and I, helped our son with his homework on many evenings even though we had both worked our demanding office jobs during the day and were often tired ourselves. We made the effort, we tried.
Parents, spend time with your children. Show them that you care enough to give of your time and of yourselves. Forget the expensive toys that children quickly tire of. The time spent with human interaction is very valuable and important. Help your young children to have a care free early childhood. It may be the only care free time they will experience in their lives. And, these few years of early childhood will pass them by so quickly, never to be experienced again. (Please do not misinterpret me here. I am not saying that you should not work at instilling self-discipline in your young children. (A double negative.) I am not saying that you should spoil your children. You are, or ought to be, raising them to eventually be self-reliant, independent and responsible adults.)
There are some who may disagree here and assert that young children should be exposed to, be made aware of the problems and issues that are of such serious concern to adults. I say that there will be plenty of time for them to become familiar with the problems that their parents’ and grandparents’ generations have left for them when they reach adolescence and then early adulthood. Pray tell, what can young children as young children do about these weighty problems of the adult world anyway?
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