This post is in response to April’s Monthly Peace Challenge which has a focus on children and peace. Thanks for a thought-provoking topic Kozo.
When our children are young (and even when they aren’t so young) our natural instinct is to protect them, keep them from harm and shelter them from some of life’s harsher realities. Like many other parents I didn’t want my son being exposed to violence, abusive language or torrid images when he was very young. I don’t want him being exposed to those things today either but I know there’s little hope of preventing it. He, like me, watches and reads the news, walks down the street and drives a car. He can now see for himself how delicate a flower peace is and I am pleased that he has grown into a peaceable young man.
So what made him grow up valuing peace more than war and humour more than aggression? I think it was a combination of things.
Before my son was born I read that the experience a developing baby has inside the womb can influence their character and demeanour after birth. To me that made a lot of sense. Every emotion I felt whilst pregnant was transmitted if not physically then chemically to my unborn son. I made it my mission to remain calm and happy throughout the whole pregnancy and birth experience. My son was a very calm and happy baby.
Throughout my son’s childhood there was always lots of love for him coupled with plenty of encouragement and understanding. More smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears. From a very early age I taught him to value nature and respect all living things (this is a lesson my parents taught me). I believe that if we teach our children to value the planet we live on and the flora and fauna that inhabit it they are more likely to think about the consequences of their actions. Those thoughts, the realisation that actions have consequences some of which are desirable and some of which are not, help us maintain balance, harmony, peace and equilibrium in the grand system that we’re all a part of.
As he grew older I taught my son about some of the harsher realities of life. We visited the WWII cemeteries in France, we discussed the reason for Remembrance and why people wear poppies. We talked about people whose behaviour is markedly different through no fault of their own, the sociopath and psychopath who do not relate to the world in the same way we do and thus do not live by the same rules. We also talked about everyday people, people like us who have a range of emotions along with the capacity to master them, to avoid anger, hatred and spite. I never promised mastering one’s emotions would be easy but I was clear our reactions to any situation are our choice, not anyone else’s doing. Easy to say, not always easy to remember so regular practice is required.
My son has become a compassionate and calm young man. Trouble is something he steps away from. I wondered for a very long time whether I had done the right thing – should I have taught him to have more fight, more bravado? Our youngsters get beaten-up, stabbed and shot in the streets because some people choose rage and hostility over peace and the sanctity of life. I pondered on these thoughts for a long while and concluded that teaching aggression, disrespect and violence only breeds more of those things making our world a turbulent, unhappy and dangerous place.
Only time will tell but I think I did the right thing. Teaching love, peace, respect and dignity offers at least some hope that future generations may be more tolerant, more placid and more peaceful than those who went before.