I have a theory; heck, as some of you know, I have lots of them! But today’s theory is one that I have found applies to a variety of disciplines. It is:
Children can appreciate very sophisticated stuff. Most, however, don’t get the opportunity. We feed children simple music, art, food, and ideas. They are capable of understanding and liking so much more.
This thought first occurred to me when my children were pre-schoolers. My sister Mary was visiting and asked me what four-year-old Katie was humming. I listened. I was giving piano lessons back then. Katie had learned a simple Mozart tune, played by all of my intermediate students. Mary laughed and said, “Only your kids, Cindy!” I realized that Katie knew and liked lots of classical music.
A few years later five-year-old Angie attended her cousin’s very Greek, very Chicago-style wedding. At the rehearsal dinner a gentlemanly Greek uncle volunteered to take Angie through the buffet line. When told that one of the dishes was marinated octopus, Angie said, “I’ll try that!” She tried everything. Her dad and I had exposed both girls to nice restaurants and good food at a young age.
So, what are your expectations? That children don’t like classical music? That children only eat nuggets and pasta? Or that children are little mental sponges, capable of learning multiple languages or appreciating ballet at a very early age? A top-notch educator once told me, “Children can tell the difference between what is good and what is not. You just have to show them.”
Low expectations require little time or effort on our part. Sometimes we give children simple stuff because it’s simpler for us. That’s O.K. and even necessary at times. I’ve been guilty of offering one too many episodes of Sesame Street to both children and grandchildren. But it’s more fun to give them a bigger life.
Graham, my four-year-old grandson, recently asked me to take him to a museum. I was sure that he didn’t know what a museum was. As a test, I asked what he wanted to see. He thought for a moment and said, “Sculpture.” Sculpture, it is! The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is in our immediate future.
I can’t wait.