I went for this play yesterday.
I was struck by something the director announced at the start of the play. She said that there were sequences without dialogues, only with music and movement. She urged the parents to let the children interpret it in anyway, please dont explain it to them she requested. It was her polite way of saying please dont fill in the blanks for them.
We seem to be plugging all leaks, clearing all spills, straightening all creases forming around our children.
And its not just you and me, its as much to do with our times.
I walk into a toy store looking for clay or playdo. Its tough to find plain tubs of different coloured playdo. The tubs are little and they come in very big packages filled with moulds. Children can fashion a lump of clay into a perfectly formed fruit or fish.
You can buy dolls. You can buy the wardrobe. There is no need to stash away scraps of cloth to be hastily stitched together into dresses.
You can buy tops that dont need precision and skill to get them to spin. Speed is guaranteed, focus on the war and championships instead.
You can buy workbooks and colouring books that have already determined what you think and what form you give them.
My mum has an ipad. It has an application that my child loves. You can mould a lump of clay into a pot, colour it, make designs, fire it, and then sell it. It is fun, says my child.It is peverse that minutes of wiggling your fingers on the pad can lead to a finished 'product' whose worth in the market can be gauged. In the school that she goes to they work a lot with clay instead of learning to write neatly in workbooks. Is that not more exciting? I nudge her to keep her fingers dirty with paint, clay and other eeky things so the perfect world of pot making on shiny gadgets will pale in comparison. Its a tough battle but I will not throw in the towel.
We put our children in drama classes, bollywood dance classes, drawing classes. The organisers assure us of a production at the end of the few weeks. How do I know tjhat my child has gained from this unless he stars on stage and I take photogrpahs of the grand debut? Drawing classes send the kids home with neat and clean finished works. Smudges and squiggles are what my child does when I offer him paint. What value addition does the teacher bring in if she does not hold his hand and make him draw the perfect sunset?And a perfect sunset is what all 14 children must draw. Not a boa constrictor that has just swallowed a man.
My child went to a play school, and a 'good' mainstream school where her end of the term files were stuffed with prefectly done drawings. Not convinced that my 3/4 year old could draw like an adult I asked her about the drawings. I did them she reassured, and the teacher finished them for us. (lest parents complain of their kids not being taught properly?)
It is okay for a child's hand to not form the perfect cursive writing in his book. She/he has to fall in love with language first, with the excitement of forming thoughts and ideas, of expressing them. Instead we make them practice practice practice.
And make them practice so that there is no doubt or uncertainty left.
To come back to the play I saw yesterday. Three agile bodies moved sinuously in unison. They were fish cutting through water. An actor on stage mentioned Nemo. He probably did so to make a connect with the children who would be far more familiar with Nemo than these fluid forms on stage. I wish he had not. It is okay if I did not see fish but instead saw three shadows of a shimmering unknown creature. The exquisite crafting of the play would have made a connect even of the child and his parents came out wondering what those three people were doing, bathed in blue light.
We are shrinking the world by making sure that all the blanks are filled up. And our kids grow up thinking they are perfect, living in a perfect world.