28 August 2017

Aristotle, Google and Me

It was Aristotle that said "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man" and he also said lots of other fairly clever things which is why people still talk about him 2,500 years or so later.

Now, like most things that were written 2,000 or so years ago, it's fair to say that it wasn't meant to be taken literally.  And I think we can all agree that he was talking generally about the first seven years of life being critical in terms of the development of a child in relation to the adult they would become.

Or maybe he was offering to raise the entire Greek population for the first seven years of their lives and his great plan to found the greatest childcare centre of all time was wildly misinterpreted. Bummer that - 2,500 years of childcare fees would have easily made him richer than... well anybody.

But I digress.  Modern thinking about raising children would indicate that he was correct about the early years of a person's life being hugely influential.  But I think we also dismiss the human experience to say that who you are at seven is who you are for the rest of your life.  And since most of us don't remember much until we are about four it would be disappointing to know that the adult you become is entirely shaped by the poo, fart and bum jokes you spend the following 900 odd days telling.

That said - it would explain a lot about humankind.

Our eldest daughter Tully turned seven a few days ago. She's a great kid.  Clever, inquisitive, stubborn, loving and kind. She worries a lot for a small person and she is fierce with her affections. She's very loyal and sometimes, like all humans, she's a massive pain in the derriere.  She's completely adorkable to me and her father, and the centre of her sister's universe.

If the adult Tully is anything like seven year old Tully, she's starting strong. But I would like to think that in the next seven years, the seven after that, the seven after that, and so on, she is experiencing the world in a way that helps her evolve into the individual she is meant to be.

That will mean being proactive about getting out in the world, going outside her comfort zone, being open to education and different kinds of people. It will mean knowing that the world is shades of grey and not the black and white we see it as when we are younger. It's about knowing the difference between right and righteous, between kind and nice, and of course - between their, they're and there.

I would hope that the adult version of my seven year old had the opportunity to be exposed to many ideas and thinking that is outside her parents' experience. I would hope that she challenges the things we present to her, not only to challenge her own thinking, but ours. I hope that she learns that she can lose sight of us, because we will never lose sight of her.

I have lived six sets of seven years so far and I can comprehensively say that the person I am now is a much more rounded version than me at 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35.  And what I have learned about myself in the last seven years has been heavily influenced, firstly by her arrival and then her sister's arrival which just goes to show you that it's not just people older than you can teach you things about yourself.

I would like to think that my seven year old realises how much power she has in her own life much sooner than I did. I want her to know that no matter what we've imprinted on her in the first seven years, she is the only person that steers her boat. She doesn't need to be the person I want her to be, or her father wants her to be, she needs only to be the person she wants to be.

And at seven, she doesn't really know what that is unless she looks at it in the context of a career. In which case she wants to be a doctor/rock star/actor/scientist/ethics teacher/spy. But being seven years old is far too young to realise that what you are is never going to be as important as who you are.

I know right? Who needs Aristotle when they've got me. And Google. How did parents answer the questions of seven year olds without Google?

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