I spent most of yesterday with my wife and daughters at an amazing outdoor playground in Homebush, Sydney. It is a truly extraordinary (and free!) playground, that could much better be described as a play ‘wonder land’. My kids absolutely loved it, as did the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other kids that were there yesterday too.
Though I enjoyed just taking some time out with the family and watching the joy on the faces of my girls as they played on the swings, climbed soft-fall rock climbing walls to go down giant slippery dips, scurried over the huge rope-netting area and journeyed to the top of the massive cubby-house tower, I was also struck by a profound realisation.
As we were watching our kids as they rapturously ran under the synchronised water fountains, I became aware, firstly, of just how many different cultures were represented by these sometimes giggling, sometimes squealing children and, secondly, of the complete lack of hate shown by these kids, united in their joy and sense of wonder.
Now, I’m not saying that there was a complete absence of selfishness. Sometimes it’s difficult to get children to share or to take turns. What I am saying, though, is that even when these things did happen, it didn’t seem as though any of it was due to the colour of one’s skin or that it had anything to do with one’s socio-economic position.
As I watched the children playing, I was struck by the realisation that they were too young to truly hate. They were seemingly untouched by the prejudices that their parents had experienced or taken on. The hatred of so many generations had not yet scarred their innocent hearts and minds and they were free, in this moment, to be young and to be human. Surely, like every generation before them, they would, in time, learn the hatred that divides along the same old lines, but for now they just wanted to play. Older kids helped younger kids when they needed it, and were rewarded with gleeful giggles and the twinkle of pure joy in the eyes of a child. And the parents let them play, perhaps holding back the weight of prejudice and fear and hate for that moment to provide the space for their kids just to be kids.
It was a beautiful thing.
And, though my mind did wander to possible futures where these now-innocent children were eventually broken by the hate that enslaves humanity, I was struck by the hope that each new generation represents. Though it does seem somewhat inevitable that children will learn and take on roughly the same prejudices as their parents, the glimmer of new possibilities is present with each new life. And we, as parents, as aunts and uncles and as communities that help shape a child’s life, can choose to repeat the same stories or to tell new ones. We can hand down the hatred of our parents’ parents, we can pass on the hate that we have come to embrace, or we can re-write the script.
The possibilities are limitless, and this potential is already alight inside our children. Our job is to not let it be extinguished.
For now, the best way to do that is just to let the children play.