I was recently speaking to a big class of tiny humans, discussing the emotion of human displacement by war and conflict. Invariably, the room was full of different reactions. It is impossible to grasp all of it. But, there was a little girl I couldn’t miss. Quietly sitting in a corner with tears streaming down, plum red in cheeks, and moved beyond her own understanding of things. When I was her age, that would have been me.
I know this kind of little girl, with nerves that wreck you desperately enough to have to put yourself out there to do something about it. Or, else you cannot sleep at night. These are special children- they feel life in many more colors than most people are able to fathom. As they grow up, they begin to understand the nuances of their own emotions a lot more clearly. But for now, trust me when I say- their minds are in a state of constant chaos. Between this, is a very moving journey. I hold a bunch of these children very close to me today. I pin my hope on them every day. I believe it has become increasingly important for us to tell our children that the power of the strength is not in the ability to not feel. There is immense strength in vulnerability, in the complexity of emotions, in expressing and standing up for what we feel and believe in.
Too often, we teach our children to be ‘strong’ by telling them not to cry in pain or anger. I question fundamentally, this very idea of strength. Are we telling them it is weak to express anything that is unpleasant? Do we only expect children to express happy emotions and not anger, pain, sadness? Are we teaching our children to bottle up their expressions? Are we hiding away the harder, real humane emotions? If yes, then how do we expect our children to grow up sensitive and empathetic towards somebody else’s pain?
When I see children experience tumult in their hearts while we discuss the issues we need to address in this world, I live in the hope that someday they will do something about it. Nobody felt inspired to bring about a change until they felt the pain (their own or somebody else’s) in the core of their hearts. Like, that little girl in my class- who after wiping her tears asked me, if she could share her home with a Syrian refugee child. My heart burst open and I couldn’t stop smiling.
That is the hope we live in. Let us hold close the sensitivity in our children and inspire them to make this world, that is theirs- equal, just and more beautiful to live in. But for that, first, let us allow them to feel.
By: Anokhi P