Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
This is aircraft L’Enfant M-33 requesting immediate assistance! I repeat: this is aircraft L’Enfant M-33 requesting immediate assistance, over! We’ve blown one of our engines and are currently spiraling toward the ground from 30,000 feet up! What’s more, the pilots are asleep and we can’t get them to wake up!
Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!
This distress signal is imagined, of course, but it’s also very real in a much deeper sense. The symbolism isn’t too hard to figure out, is it? The title gave it quite away, and then the name of my aircraft took that even further. Perhaps you even wish I had been a bit more inventive and original, or a lot more. Well, I guess I still have a lot to learn, if that’s the case. A lot to learn either way. But, be that as it may, this simple symbolism is very real. Hauntingly real, even.
Do we not get the sense that our children are very much in grave danger and that their guides have fallen asleep at the most inopportune of times while tragedy races to meet them?
The month of May is internationally recognized as Child’s Month. The emphasis is supposed to be on children. Or ostensibly, at least. All over the world, countries, kingdoms, communities, cities and states are celebrating the Month of the Child and are turning their attentions to childcare and child policy and child welfare and child rights. Some have put charities in place. Others have thrown a few parties and celebrations and events so that one and all could get together and enjoy some good entertainment. Still others have held forums for discussion of important issues.
Now, this is all well and good, I say. I am against neither charities nor entertainment and social events nor purposeful discussion. On the contrary, I am all for them. But the question is this: What of the children themselves? Is it possible that in our zeal for working on behalf of our children we have forgotten the very ones we started all this work for in the first place? To use a Biblical term, could we possibly have gotten entangled in the letter which kills instead of the spirit which gives life? Have we been so focused on the outer elements that we’ve missed the core of the issue?
First and foremost, the move to dedicate an entire month to the special remembrance of children is very noble and applaudable. The old cliché is, after all, inescapable: children are the future. But, alas, that is the very heart of the matter. Just what kind of future are we making for them, and just what kind of future will they eventually make based on what we have given them? Child’s Month is ultimately pointless if, at the end of 31 days (to say nothing of 365 days), the children themselves are not impacted beyond fancy words and speeches and more strict and defined legislation and flashing lights and music and new computer labs at school.
The real issues have to do with relationships. Come on. We were all children once. Don’t you remember how we used to wait patiently and impatiently for mommy or daddy or auntie or uncle or grandma or grandpa or big bro or big sis to get home? Don’t you remember how we used to yearn for them to play with us? To just suddenly launch themselves at us and start tickling the daylights out of us? To tell us stories whether they be old folktales, fairy tales, tales of their own childhood or even something they invented on the spot? To look at us and hug us or pat us on the head and say “Good job!” or “I love you!”? To lift us high and spin? To baby us a bit? To teach us how to iron our own clothes or to let us help with the baking? To tell us when we had made a mess of things? Even to pay attention enough and care enough to scold and punish us when we had been naughty?
For those of us that got all these childish wishes granted, did we not feel more fulfilled than being thrown a hundred parties? Did we not feel more secure than the knowledge that we were protected by 200 child laws under Section 456, Article 79 of the national constitution? Did we not feel more appreciated and loved than if there had been 10 conferences and workshops each week geared toward children and their issues and to which attendance was mandatory? And don’t we feel we are somehow better off for it in the long run?
For those of us who were denied these childish wishes, did we not feel somehow neglected amid all the laws and policies geared toward our protection? Did we not feel alone even in the company of so many other souls having so much fun at the amusement park or at the live concert? And didn’t we wonder why mom or dad or auntie or uncle could never seem to find time for us in the midst of their ever-busy schedule, even with the age-old mantra that they were “doing this to make our lives better” as our intended cushion? And don’t we carry feelings of bitterness toward it all and them all, varying anywhere from slight to extreme, to this very day?
You see, it’s a very good thing that we try to put all these things in place for our children. Preparation is a necessity, after all, and great care must be taken to secure our children. But are we not defeating our own purposes if our children end up feeling as if they place second to all these wonderful preparations, as if they are there so that the preparations may have a reason to be instead of that the preparations are there so that they can have a smoother road to travel?
The point is this: genuine, positive relationship works wonders that no science or psychology can even begin to fathom. The lack of this precious thing has given rise to virtually every scourge to affect children in the present and in the past. It ultimately explains the thousands of millions of children that have gone missing over the years, the tragic stories of rape and abuse and murder and fear and loss of identity and hunger and homelessness and depravity and coldness and unnatural heartlessness which have characterized the lives of so many of our little ones. In the end, the criminals and tyrants of today who do so much damage both to us and to our children are but the cold, scared children of yesterday who were failed horribly by the adults of that day who were in turn failed at some point by those who were tasked with guiding and guarding them as children; and the cycle stretches back to the very beginning and, in all probability, forward to the very end…
Why don’t we, who are so intelligent as to be able to see this truth, actually do something about this vicious, endless cycle? Besides the outward shows of care, why don’t we actually apply the cure, apply the healing balm of love and time and patience to the wounded souls of our little ones? If we don’t make time to show them just how special and precious they are, someone else will make time to show them other things that we just may find we had rather they had never learned. Life can be very cruel. Children aren’t stupid or oblivious. They are wonderfully intelligent, impressionable beings who need more than our policies and delusions and socio-economic excuses to survive in this harsh world.
Jesus set the ultimate example when He refused to use fatigue or busyness as an excuse not to see the children that had been brought to Him by their mothers. The disciples that were prepared to do just that were rewarded with a very stern rebuke. For Child’s Month and the rest of the year going forward, I think this is an attitude that we should really adopt if we really mean our children well. Ideas and work and policies and leisure are all fine, but at the end of the day, we have to live out life with our children. When that is the case, the theories have an uncanny way of growing strangely shallow and tasteless without the practice behind it.
Until we finally get this right the cry is and will continue to be:
Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!