We finally unpacked the sewing machine after moving house weeks ago. My 8- and 6-year-olds were instantly inspired after sorting all the fabric scraps and have been busily sewing up creations ever since. All four girls are now frequently dressed in handmade costumes.
I went in to take a peek at their progress at one point and commented, “You look like you’re having fun.”
“We are!” they replied.
“Can you have too much fun?” I queried.
“No. Why?” they looked up at me with confused faces, wondering why I’d ask a question with such an obvious answer. They truth is I wanted to get their take on something…
“Sometimes people say life isn’t all fun and games and kids need to be made to do things they don’t like”, I explained.
Miss 6 replied without a second thought, “I think they’re just telling you about what their lives are like.”
If you want the truth, ask a child.
The truth for us is that we spend our days following our joy and we are not afraid of that.
The truth is that, instead of going to school, our children choose what they want to do day in and day out and we don’t fear the consequences of a childhood lived this way.
Almost their whole day is spent in play. Even what may seem to others as work to them is still play, because whatever they do is self-chosen out of their own motivation, not coerced or forced. To them, life IS all fun and games, and they live that truth fully.
Most people, on the surface, would agree that childhood is meant to be carefree and fun! Until children start to have too much fun, and then it becomes confronting. Then the warnings start. What are the consequences of too much fun? How will they ever learn to do things they don’t want to do? How will they learn to follow instructions? How will they be prepared for the ‘real world‘? What about when they have to get a job?
Do we honestly believe that it’s helpful for children to spend 13 years of childhood following orders so that they can successfully conform to society and spend the rest of their lives doing what they’re told? Does that sound like a recipe for satisfaction? I rather think that instead of these concerns carrying any real weight, what is going on here, as Miss 6 suggested, is that a child living a free and fun life reminds people of their own feelings of constraint.
“In a nutshell, people whose lives are hard, boring, painful, meaningless—people who suffer—tend to resent those who seem to suffer less than they do, and will make them suffer if they can. People who feel themselves in chains, with no hope of ever getting them off, want to put chains on everyone else.” – John Holt, Teach Your Own
If you feel the world is hard and unpleasant then you might think our way of living is unrealistic and naive. We’re still living it anyway. In the ‘real world’, not an alternate universe.
If you feel stuck, the freedom of childhood might shine an uncomfortable spotlight on that. But instead of looking within, people tend to blame others or the world.
“We deny responsibility for our actions when we attribute their cause to factors outside ourselves.” -Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication
The truth is we don’t HAVE to do anything, and I’m happy for my children to learn that. I’m comfortable with risking too much fun and freedom. I subscribe to the radical idea that kids should have fun.
The risks of a fun childhood…
What are the risks of a childhood free of force, coercion, ‘work’, and obligations? A childhood of ‘too much’ fun. Here’s what I think…
They could have amazing memories to look back on.
They could know that following your joy and passion is a perfectly acceptable way to live.
They could be intrinsically motivated because they have not been coerced and bribed into doing things.
They could truly know themselves, having never had to live up to others standards rather than their own.
They may never have to do things they don’t want to, and come to believe that they are autonomous people who can make their own choices.
If they experience hardship, they will have hope that things can be different.
They could be satisfied with living in the present, instead of always worrying about the future.
They could know they are not helpless, but powerful and in control of their lives.
They could know that you don’t have to accept ‘the way things are’ and instead create your own reality.
They could change the world instead of conforming to the world.
Ultimately, they will have spent their childhood joyfully and how could that time ever be wasted? If childhood is not the time to have fun, when is? When they meet challenges in life I have no doubt they will be able to face them with confidence. You don’t need years of imposed unpleasantness to prepare you for inevitable hard times. What a waste of life!
Childhood should be fun! There’s no need to be afraid of that. Follow your joy with confidence, because the ‘risks’ are worth it. When people doubt you, just remember “they’re just telling you about what their lives are like.”
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” ― L.R. Knost