Making Sense of the Nonsense of Childhood in Our Culture
Have you ever been in a situation that just didn’t make any sense? You kept trying to make it make sense. You knew in your heart something was wrong. But because everyone else was going along with it you just kept trying to make it make sense. Especially as a child, what else could you do?
Childhood in our culture makes no sense.
It is senseless that children are treated with less respect just because of their status as children.
It is senseless that children are asked to sacrifice their true selves for the sake of efficiency and productivity.
It is senseless that children must sacrifice their self-respect just to please the adults around them.
It is senseless that children are told that by the adults who punish them, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”
So much of childhood is filled with this nonsense.
We grew up in this cultural norm. It was all around us. It seemed normal, but we knew it wasn’t right.
As parents who are committed to creating life with children that is full of respect and unconditional love, we get stuck, over and over, in patterns that are harmful in spite of our best intentions.
One of the reasons we get stuck in these patterns is because of all the nonsense our culture creates in childhood.
When I think about the kind of childhood most of us experience, I reflect on how so much of it is rooted in fear and lack.
We don’t get our needs met as children. We don’t feel heard or understood. We get punished for speaking and acting from our true selves.
These things happen not because the adults around us intentionally meant to harm us, for the most part. These things happen because of the broader cultural norms about how children should be treated “for their own good.”
In fact, the belief that we treat children the way we do in our culture because we want the best for them is one of the biggest hurdles to changing our beliefs and behaviors.
No matter what the intent, harm is done.
We then spend our adult lives trying to get our needs met by people, often children, who can’t give us what we need.
And then we blame them, but we’re not sure why.
We direct our anger toward them because we think our anger is about what they did, but it is too often about what we didn’t get.
We treat them with disrespect, all out of fear. Fear that we will never get what we need.
I’m not here to blame my parents for the unconditional love they couldn’t give me.
But I am trying to understand how that cycle of fear and unmet needs leads me to re-enact patterns that create for the children in my life the same experience I had as a child.
I’m trying to understand and bring awareness to the fact that when we don’t get unconditional love and approval from adults during childhood, we keep trying to get those needs met in all the wrong places.
Underneath many of the struggles we have as parents, is the fear of never being able to get what we need.
This is leftover fear from our childhoods. This fear drives us into narrow places where we then treat the children in our lives with disrespect.
We continue with another generation of children who do not get their needs met with unconditional love and approval. This critical, solid foundation from which they go out into the world clear about their value and worth and not looking to others to give it to them.
So how can we make sense of something that doesn’t seem to make any sense?
The lack of unconditional love and approval in childhood creates the nonsense we live in now. It doesn’t make sense because the ways we disempower children just isn’t meant to make any sense.
We rationalize that adults get to make the rules because we didn’t get our needs met as children and now it’s finally our turn.
We rationalize that children are treated with less respect because we were treated disrespectfully.
As individuals in our culture, we try to make our own childhood more bearable by telling ourselves, “That’s how I was treated and I’m just fine.”
We have to create some justification or rationalization for a crazy set of experiences that we lived through. We have to decide it was ok because we can’t bear the possibility that it MAKES NO SENSE to be treated this way just because we are children.
Once we stop trying to rationalize or justify, once we face it squarely and directly, once we lift the veil that covered our eyes to the senselessness, we can move on.
We can create the internal awareness of the ways this senselessness lives in us. We can accept the senselessness and not let the fear define our ways of being and interacting with children.
We can liberate ourselves from trying to make sense of nonsense.