As back-to-school season ensues, I cannot help but reflect on the adults who are heroes of sorts in their own rights when it comes to looking after children. Though not a parent myself, my job of more than two decades involves working with children and I have many a friend who are parents and/or teachers. Perhaps because I work so closely with little ones, I find myself observing them often in everyday life situations when I am out and about. I am continually fascinated by their personalities and I love watching them take in the world around them as they grow and learn and change as a result. But, let’s face it, raising kids is by and large, the most difficult, yet rewarding job there is or will ever be! Of course, I am not telling you anything new as most of you reading this know it to be true from first-hand experience, and if neither a parent or a teacher, chances are that you know of at least one or two who can enlighten you, if needed.
Nowadays, with all of the increasing challenges facing our future generations and the environment around them, it is important to acknowledge two of the most important stakeholders in their upbringing–both parents and teachers alike. And yes, both are key to shaping and molding productive, healthy, happy citizens who are self-sufficient and able to contribute positively not only to their community, but hopefully also on a more global level. Naturally, everyone has their own opinion and past experiences to draw on with respect to how it exactly that children should be raised and sometimes parents/parents and/or parents/teachers agree to disagree with each other on certain aspects or roles that each plays; however, regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, etc., I think we all ultimately want the same things for our youth, as stated above. The fact is that the journey of how to get our young ones to where we want them to be or where they need to be is ongoing and ever-changing, as we face and continue on our own journeys as adults.
There is no doubt and much evidence to support the notion that ages zero through five are the most crucial years in a child’s development intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically. These are the stages and ages that demand an enormous amount of time and attention on the part of parents and early childhood educators, where possible, and yet, it seems as though there is less and less of each to give as work schedules, finances and familial structures dictate otherwise. According to Statistics Canada, for example, dual-income earners has risen from 35.9% in 1976 to 69.1% in 2014 and Childtrend.org states that the percentage of two-parent families has decreased from 85% in 1960 to 65% in 2015. Take into account both of those compelling pieces of data and it becomes apparent just where and how our individual resources are being dispersed. At the heart of those numbers lie our children. Now, that’s not to say that children are doomed because of the increase in working parents and single family structures, it simply means that our time is becoming more divided than it once used to be. I know that I certainly see the stresses of ‘not having enough time’ in the families that I know of as well as in the children that I work with. Time appears to be our most sought-after commodity, the one to which dollar and cents is attached, but also the one desperately needed for our well-being and the well-being of our families. While I am not a psychologist and I don’t have a specific quote/stat to back me up (though I am sure that I could easily find one), I will go out on a limb and say that our daily schedules and ‘plugged in’ lifestyles eat up more of our personal time now more than ever, leaving less time for the nurturing and togetherness that our kids crave and need. I hear and I see it in my daily work enough to know that truth exists in my statement, the extent of which may not even be known fully, as professionals are just beginning to embark on studies dissecting the effects of our fast-paced, digital world.
Add in the schooling years, wherein family life becomes even further strained by clocks and bells and homework and clubs and sports and friends, and a person can get a little dizzy just thinking about the constant swirl of activities, albeit many of them good. Just the same, it all boils down to minutes spent on one thing versus another, leaving parents to determine the fine line and balance between the merits of doing and not doing. So, as we look toward another school year for many (some of whom have already begun the year) let’s remember that there needs to balance and appreciation toward everyone who plays a role in our children’s lives and that we should all be working to support each other, so that we can best support our kids. When stressors take over and blame is at the ready or things get to be too much, ask for help or take a breather; likewise, offer help or simple kindnesses when you see similar instances facing others. After all, we (the collective we) are really in it together, as either participants or bystanders or more likely both. Look for solutions, not problems and remember that a little bit goes a long way, be it a little bit of understanding, compassion and/or empathy. Whether it’s a parent not able to settle their baby on an airplane or a teacher doing their best to deal with bullying issues, be sure not to act or speak from a place of judgement, but rather from a place of love, which is really what every one of us needs more of, especially our children. Remember, too, that modelling is one of the most powerful things that we can do for our youth; whether or not they realize it (the older they are, the less likely that is), they are silently looking to us at every turn to help guide them to be the best possible person that they can be. While it is an honour and a privilege to be charged with such a life-changing role, as a parent and/or a teacher, it is sometimes an exhausting and daunting prospect. But, it sure does become a whole lot easier and a lot more rewarding when we acknowledge and show up for ourselves, each other and our loved ones:-).
On our last day here in Maui, we contemplate just what it is exactly about Hawaii that draws us in so closely each and every time that we come to visit. I mean, obviously the islands have an allure that most people adore, and I, personally, have not ever heard anyone complain about their stay, other than it being expensive. For my husband and I though, there is a Visceral reaction to this place that we cannot deny–for both of us. And, it happens from the moment we step off of the plane. It just feels like home and that’s all there is to it.
The interesting thing is that when we visit with locals or read the newspaper, we always find and/or hear about people like us who have come to vacation and end up staying because it speaks to them also in a way that is hard to describe. In a post last week, I wrote a prime example about a lady (one of the condo management’s employees) who left behind her grown kids and grandkids to restart life here after a not-so-great year on the mainland. Picking up and leaving your known entities (usually job, family and security) from anywhere to give it a go in a completely foreign environment is always a courageous move for anyone. Yet, it seems as though a LOT of people living in Hawaii have done exactly that. Sure, there are those who were born and raised here, but a great many people who call the South Pacific Isles home seem to have uprooted themselves from afar to live their lives amongst a culture built largely on the traditional beliefs and ways of the Polynesian people.
Aside from the people and beauty of the natural environment, there is certainly an island feel that cannot be denied whether you are lying on the beach, driving along the highway, or shopping at one of the stores. There is generally speaking a different mentality than you would find back home (Canada) and we find it much less hectic and way more relaxing, even as we observe those around us–both visitors and locals alike. The question is, do we feel the way we do in part because we are on vacation and free to do as we please, without jobs to go to, chores to do or daily life to impede upon our enjoyment? Probably somewhat, but I guess we wouldn’t ever really know the answer to that unless we actually made a move to live here. If others that we have met are any indication, I’ve yet to hear of anyone being dissatisfied and moving back ‘home’ after uprooting themselves, especially those folks having moved from cold, snowy climates such as ours. Of course, some people are in their retirement years and this is where they have chosen to live out their days, so everyday life looks a little different for them to start with, but what about everyone else? It seems to us that they are pretty darn happy with their decision to call the Hawaiian islands home, retired or not:-).
As Canadians looking to move here, we would have the added complication of trying to get green cards and we’ve heard that it is quite the process, but like anything, it can be done if you put your mind to it. Over time, we have certainly thought more and more about what life would be like and thus far, we are thinking that calling Hawaii home would be pretty cool, even if only for a few months out of the year as snowbirds. If nothing else, there is certainly the dream of it some day, hopefully sooner rather than later, and we happen to think that there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of dreaming, especially in a place as dreamy as this. And, just as with our condo lady who used a coral heart on her beach walk as ‘the sign’ that she was meant to restart her life in Maui, we will use the Gemini tour boat that crosses our path daily as a good sign, since it just so happens that we are both Geminis:-).
Ask. Believe. Ye Shall Receive.
As I board the plane, and look back,
I see all that I am leaving behind,
I reluctantly take my seat,
And, I begin to feel it happening,
Slowly, but surely….the oozing begins,
All of the ocean’s waves,
All of the fine granules of sand,
All of the swaying palms,
All of the slightly sweet breezes,
All of the tropical flora,
All of the exotic birds,
All of the salt air stickiness,
Begin to exit my every pore,
Try as I might to stop it,
It seeps and seeps and seeps,
Until there is no more.
Our days are numbered,
The end is coming near,
We try to brace ourselves,
The remaining time we hold dear,
I wish we could stay forever,
But, it turns out that we can’t,
The reality within arm’s reach,
A wish that cannot be grant,
The memories will last forever,
The pictures say it all,
Precious times spent,
Having an absolute ball,
‘Not to worry’, we tell ourselves,
We will do it again soon,
After all, it’s up to us,
To march to our own tune,
Indeed, it’s back to daily working life,
Schedules, lunches and plans will be made,
Our vacation time lain to rest,
That’s how it has to be, I’m afraid,
We’ll forge ahead like soldiers,
Doing what we must,
Early morning wake-ups,
Will cause the most fuss,
So, when the day comes,
And we hear that familiar sound,
We’ll Lurch ourselves out of bed,
Off to work we will be bound.
The lull of the ocean draws me near,
It’s layered blue depths of which I silently fear,
Yet, inside my soul there is a continual yearning,
The nature of which I am still eagerly learning,
In it lies peace and a sense of calm like no other,
As if it were a close cousin or maybe my brother,
The crashing, the splashing, the soft lullabies,
Sing a song to me that are billions of years wise,
I sit in awe and find myself staring for hours on end,
So mesmerizing are its wet curves and rolling, soft bends,
The sparkle of light on its surface invites me in,
Here I am more free than I have ever been.
Last night, I just managed to capture this sailboat sailing through the path of the sunlight on the South Pacific waters here in Maui. The sparkling light and the warm tones make my heart smile each and every time that I am fortunate to witness these amazing sunsets! Aloha and Mahalo:-).