29 January 2024

Last week I was sitting in our Junior Quad before the start of school, chatting to a few of our new Grade 1 pupils. It is always incredibly refreshing chatting to these young 6 year olds, who are right at the start of their school career, and who see the world very differently to us oldies. Their honest optimism, and expressed joy for the simple things of life can teach us so much. I asked a few Grade 1’s what the highlight of their year had been thus far. Expecting some wonderful feedback about their first few days of school, or their new school uniform, or something about the start of their schooling career, I received the following responses:

  • Two Grade 1 twins told me that their highlight had been receiving their new hamsters – also twins, named “Fuzzball” and “Furball”;
  • Another Grade 1 told me that her highlight had been meeting a grey cat over the weekend, named “Ginger” (the contradiction did not seem to bother her);
  • My next young friend proudly told me that her highlight had been falling off her bike, and that her knee was grazed and a different colour.

No deep pedagogical or educationally philosophical input, and no life changing revelations about school life. Rather a stark reminder that the simple, often ignored experiences are the most important. That we learn so much, and receive so much joy from that which we tend to often rush past in the busyness of life. That sometimes we as adults, focus on our perceived priorities in terms of what we believe a young person should be focusing on, and should be pursuing. However, what is often needed is a reminder that the simple things are equally, if not more important, than the complex ones. I suppose it boils down to what our priorities are, because often we prioritise that which we think is so important, however, it is the basics, the so called “smaller details” that really make a difference at the end of the day.

And so, as we start a new year, maybe it’s worth our while to pause, and take a moment to reflect on our basics, to check out our priorities, and to ensure that our children, ourselves, and our families, are spending enough time on the vitally important, yet often ignored “smaller details”. Our time is hogged by that which we deem to be a priority, and if we are brutally honest, our priorities are more than often dominated by that which the world tells us is important. Sadly, the world often deems the basics, the simple things to be irrelevant and not worthy of our attention.

Possibly, we all need to check our priority lists, and ensure that some of the following basics are in place:

  • Are we eating supper together as a family at least 3 to 4 times a week. No technology, no interruptions. Just healthy conversation and time together (regardless of what’s on the menu). For some, this may be a daunting prospect, but the consequences of ignoring this family activity are far more daunting. If you are not convinced, chat to a family where all the children have finished high school, and left home. Time together as a family is a privilege, not a chore.
  • Children need time to play. To spend time being a person of their age. Free from technology and free from stress. Just playing in an age appropriate manner. It is our responsibility as the adults in their lives to create such opportunities. If we allow their schedules to become so busy that time to play is not an option, then we have let them down.
  • Are we being proactive in terms of monitoring the use of technology by our children? If not, then we must brace ourselves for the inevitable destructive consequences. Age appropriate use of technology could be one of the most important and critical aspects of the growth and development of the modern child. Putting effective boundaries in place with regards to technology (as exhausting as this may sometimes be) may be one of the kindest things that you ever do for your child.
  • Children need spiritual input in their lives. As parents, we need to determine the nature of such input, however, to neglect the spiritual growth of a child is to neglect the child.
  • Another simple basic, is doing something together as a family at least twice a month. Whether it be going to the beach, walking the dogs, going for a walk, having an ice cream together, or playing a board game as a family – this time together is invaluable. Pre-teens and teenagers may protest at this idea. Don’t give in. Stand your ground. They will thank you later.
  • Prioritise kindness in our homes. Our children model their behavior on us. They imitate us. Their language development, and character growth need to be molded by those at home (and not those on social media). We all need to take a moment to take stock of the words, the attitudes, the thoughts we express around our children, and ensure that they are constructive, and not destructive.
  • Be honest with ourselves about our own digital habits, and the example that we are setting for the young people in our lives. Living our lives through our phones, and desperately seeking validation on our social media pages, will send a message to our children that we may live to regret.

As 2024 roars into life, I really hope that each one of us makes the time to revisit our priority lists, and that we all make an effort to ensure that the simple, yet essential things are given preference, and not forgotten about in the pursuit of all that the world often deems important.

Have a happy, peaceful and wonderful year, full of life’s simple, yet beautiful moments!