The other morning I was waiting for a bus with headphones in, listening to music. I noticed a young Mum doing the same, while her son of maybe three years old stood patiently with nothing to do. She was checking messages or the web on her phone and listening to music without apparently paying any attention to her child. They got on the bus after me and headed upstairs (his choice) and I guess they hopefully have a good relationship. It’s wrong of me to judge them on such a brief observation but it made me fear for a generation of new parents who are so used to the independence of being plugged into something or checking online that real human interaction gets forgotten.
Of course we all need a break, and I can hardly criticise someone for enjoying listening to music while I was doing the same. I guess I’d have felt more positive about them if he had been playing with some toy or book or had been offered an ear-phone (which maybe he had turned down before). I know that as a society we still tend to ignore the voices of children and young people, even while the government brings out new pieces of policy which ostensibly promote young people’s participation and inclusion. Even after months of consultation I am decidedly sceptical about the ‘Positive for Youth’ campaign, and have encouraged my students to apply their developing critical faculties to shoot it down.
For someone who teaches about the importance of listening to children and working with young people, I seem to do relatively little of it these days. Occasionally I help out with the church youth but full-time work means I’m less available than I was. They always need more volunteers to help with the children and young people at church. Although some people do a great job including the youth, I’m not sure that the worship is generally that accessible to young people. We often include other language songs but should probably try harder to include more simple songs which would suit the children as well as others for whom English is an additional language.
There was a quote from C.S. Lewis which a couple of my friends reposted on social media sites last week:
The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career. C. S. Lewis (Letters of C.S. Lewis, 1952)
I commented to the effect that I wouldn’t want to disrespect C.S. Lewis or anyone who is a homemaker, but as a single woman, I find this quite an uncomfortable idea to be promoting now. This would have been ground-breaking in the 50s, encouraging husbands to see their wives’ efforts as more valuable than (or even equally valuable to) their own careers. But that’s assuming he’s talking to couples in regular family units which just are not the norm any more. I don’t see my chief aim in life as supporting anyone’s homemaking, unless you’re talking spiritually about the many rooms in our Father’s house.
I’m all for supporting the next generation, and enabling them to participate in life fully now, seeing children and young people as human beings, not just human-becomings. I guess I think this needs to go alongside supporting older people, poorer people, anyone who gets ignored because they have a physical or mental disability, they are homeless or seeking asylum. And many more groups who I’m ignoring because for whatever reason, they are not at the top of my or maybe anyone’s list. Who will speak out for those who have no voices? Or even better, enable them to speak out for themselves?