Teaching children Interdependence

Independence or interdependence? Can we ever make child independent when we all exist because of interdependence. Instead let’s all celebrate interdependence and enjoy the abundance it brings.

I am free, when I can see, how tree is me and I the tree.

I tell children, don’t care about being independent, but do care about interdependence. They say to me, But uncle, I want be like my papa, who does everything. I smile and ask, does he milk the cow, and does he shell the corn and does he reads from books that he wrote himself and does he live life alone or does he coexist with us all.

At this point there is some silence. I ask children, do you see a cloud in your notebook and they say no. And I tell them, hey the cloud cried one day and rained the earth all and little seed got some water to grow into something real tall. Then a woodcutter cut it down and a factory pulped it out and made it into paper that the binder stitched and the shopkeeper sold it out. And the children, they say, yes uncle now we see the cloud in our notebooks. So, I ask them how could we live independent life. And in chorus they reply no live no live, we live only interdependent.

You see you can’t beat me, you see i am not running any race.

I often ask children, what is the moral of the story of The Hare and The Tortoise and then when they are through with their myriad views, I add my own:

To me the story tells that it is futile to run any race, futile to prove who is faster. since whatever may or way; we all simply reach the finish line. But children say, Its fun to race, to win. I agree its fun and its alright to have fun. I also tell them, that all these races, selections, winners seem to imply that life is about scarcity; that only few can have it. I ask them, If we start looking at everything as a race in our life then what will happen. Children reply, then we will be running all the time. We all conclude, we will be tired, all the time. I remind them, how animals hunt together, live together and safeguard each other. Slowly I see children nodding their heads as if their primal instinct suddenly surfaced to question this culture of scarcity we have gifted them.

Money can buy me everything except for what i really need.

I would call children and give them each a 10 buck note and most children start instantly planning what they want to buy. Some even start wishing they had got more. I ask them how they are different now that they have money in their pocket as compared to earlier when they were literally penniless?

This question seems to baffle them, some say they now have purchasing power (they don’t really use this term).
And i ask them what will happen to this sense of strength once they spend it. This question not only baffles them, but baffles me too and I continue to wonder how this concept of independence is so strongly enforced by the concept of my money.

I often ask parents to question what concepts pocket money reinforces and how will it be if instead of pocket money, we exercised the concept of common money – where everybody knows how much we have and everybody decides where and what to spend and so on.

I count you twice

I ask children, let us all together count the gifts that we all have received. Initially children start with things like game station, cycle, etc. Soon somebody will add some non things like love, laughter, jokes, mummy, sister, friends, wind, fragrance, mountains, butterflies, and in no time the gift-list spirals out into infinity. We all sigh. We all are blessed and gifted in abundance.
We all, only because we all co-own.

Those we meet can change, sometime so profoundly, we are not same afterwards.

In the book / movie “Life of Pi” (from where we have taken this quote), Pi says that it is the presence of the tiger in his boat that made him live through the ordeal. So the ferocious tiger and the attendant fear was a blessing!

When a child complains that the other child is teasing, I say, and what are we learning from who that teases you. The child has lots to share, lots to learn. What we learn from who does something fantastic and from who does something terrible and from who that shows an irritable disposition and so on.

I ask children, who are you? what all has gone into who are you?
As they think and express their thoughts, they talk about how each person they have met and each book that somebody wrote that they read and each movie that somebody made that they saw. How each one of them has made the who that they are.
Then we sleep into the wee hours of night counting each little millions of people who have made each one of us. Dreaming, I is not I, but a huge we.

I am free, i soar like a kite, but i need you for my flight.

I lock children in a room and ask them what is freedom?
They say, it to be out of this room, whenever I want, to do what i want and however i want. I say, if I let one of you out of this room will that child be free. They think of some time and say, nay that child will also be free when all are free.

As we sit together in the night under the moonlit sky, i ask, is night captured by the sun or sun darkened by the moon and the ones who like science say, neither – they just coexist, as the cycle of life.

I ask and ask more, they say why you ask so much
I say, Oh to live we need to be aware; we learn from what each would share.

In this age of one world, of social media, and typical packet of daily milk coming to you after exchanging about 30 hands, we realize that independence is a myth. and that WWW is actually “World WE Web” and the only reality is interdependence.

Take my childhood for example. All along I was made to believe that I need to be independent and successful as an individual. Then when I stepped into my first job, my first training was on team work. What Irony! There has been no looking back. Every aspect of my life is simply because of countless other people. ‘I’ actually only existed in my mind. The whole world actually was about relationships and togetherness.

We realize that we put in every child’s mind that life is a trade off between self and others; a kind of balancing act. That there is only one winner – you or others. Class rank, position in a race, selection in a play tell us that. According to us, however, this paradigm of life is only full of strive, struggle and stress.

The invitation here is to involve children to explore a different but imperative paradigm.

To burst some myths – like that of scarcity

To break some beliefs – that being dependent is bad

To play differently – cooperative sports and games

To explore options – instead of committees make communities

The invitation is also to look at inspiration not just from movie stars and sports winners, but also from simple rural folk who seems to have for generations – simply coexisted.

By Aditi & Ratnesh