On the way back from the park today, I walked past the school, and coming out of the gate, headed by two teachers, was the most adorable crocodile of tiny children. They must have been about 5 years old. They were all in blue coats, and they were bubbling over with energy. Their socks, that were no doubt neatly pulled up at 9am, were now in various stages of charming disarray.
Inexplicably, the two at the front of the line wore multicoloured clown hats. Strange! But then you never can tell with children.
I was smiling at the sight, when I heard the teacher say to them: ‘Walk Nicely!’
Ooh. I flinched. Walk Nicely. Don’t Run. Along with: Sit Still, Keep Off The Grass, Colour Inside The Lines, and even worse, Use The Right Colour.*
All of it is code for – do not express yourself in this situation. I understand that it is very often necessary for life in any ordered society. And teachers need more order than anyone, perhaps.
But, wow, how we can also sometimes squash ourselves with it.
Like getting children to eat vegetables. It’s easier surely, to be a creative cook, to be kind, to respect their own characters and preferences. Offer what’s for tea, and let them eat it or not. I’ve never made mine eat, or even try, anything they don’t want to – ever. I won’t do it. I decided that even before my first baby was born, and have stuck to it.
But there’s no other food until breakfast, mind.** Them’s the rules. On this I am rock solid.
My general feeling is: just be kind about it. To you and to them. Don’t force their hand. And don’t – just don’t – introduce the horror of mushrooms into what could otherwise be a pleasant evening. Your glass of wine in front of the TV certainly won’t thank you.
And eventually, one day, when you go round to theirs for tea, they’ll serve you up a hipster wild mushroom risotto and you can all smile to yourselves.***
The point of all this? It feels easier to ‘behave’ if the parameters allow for some self expression, freedom, and respect, and if the people leading you are kind.
Which brings me back round to Walk Nicely. How are we, children included, to be expected to walk nicely in the world right now, when there is growing provocation to resist?
Why am I toiling away trying to do things with purpose and kind intention, when people in charge – who ought to be bigger, better, wiser than me – are not being so conscientious?
If leaders thought about it before retweeting hateful videos, then ordinary people like me wouldn’t be thinking about Not Walking Nicely Any Longer.
*The horror of ‘use the right colour’ runs deep.
**Each of my children tested this system – but only once. Thank goodness, it was awful, with each of them. I cried inside, each time, but didn’t waver. And made unlimited pancakes for breakfast, with syrup. 🙂
*** Felix is buying courgettes at University. The wonder of it!