What Are Those Children Missing Out?

Race Cars

"Is your skirt from Taiwan too?" A curious third grader stared at me right after I showed a group of 20 kids a picture of Chinese New Year that happened to have a crowed of people in it. 

"No, I bought it from Ross..." I smiled, while thinking I gotta do a better job dressing up next time! 

This took place a number of years ago, when I was sharing the culture of Taiwan with some American young minds. These children, were as curious as those attending private schools, except that they were handicapped by a lack of resources because their parents were not able... or not willing... to help.

And then, my time spent on volunteer work plummeted with the birth of our 2nd child. As life started to become crazily busy, I totally lost the ability to volunteer beyond very one-off events here and there in the past couple of years. But, this child raising experience has profoundly inspired my appreciation for the importance of empowered parents in the lives of children.

Now looking back, I'd like to make a feeble attempt to reflect what needs parents are fulfilling in children's minds, and what those children might be missing out at the absence of empowered parents:

Need 1: Company

After hitting my head the 12th time on the playground fixture, I again rose successfully to the cage-like entrance to a 20-foot tall giant spiral slide. (If you have been chasing your wild toddler who always looks like he/she is about to fall off the edge of a playground fixture that has narrow pathways, you probably know what I am talking about.)

Just when my then 2 year old was about to giggle again, a gloomy young boy stopped me, "Can you play with me?"

"What happened?" I was perplexed, partly because I was also recovering from the dizziness. 

"My parents don't want to play with me. They said it's boring to play with me and they do that all the time."

Do those children have an adult in their lives who is willing to hit his/her head 10+ times to ensure they are safe and supported, when venturing out to a new arena?

Need 2: Exploration

One of my favorite activities when visiting museums is watching children asking their parents 1000+ questions and the parents helplessly pulled out the smart phone one last time, "Let me check..."

Do those children have an adult in their lives who is willing to spend hours searching all over the Internet for Lego parts to build awesome rockets or reading to them the same planet books over and over per request, because they are so curious about outer-space?

Need 3: Encouragement

In order to potty train our 2 year old, I started by inviting all other family members to come to the restroom, clapping hands and cheering, whenever he really went. Now he's already built the habit, but it has become a family ritual that whenever he peed in the potty, everyone else would still gather by the toilet and cheer for him.

Do those children have an adult in their lives who is willing to hold their hands and encourage them to take the very first small step, when they have fear for things that look very simple from adult perspective?

Need 4: Character Building

"Yay, great job. You did what you had promised to do!"

"Don't let the water running, otherwise Earth will break sooner!"

We are still learning to become better parents day by day, but we do encourage good behaviors and deter bad ones.

Do those children have an adult in their lives who is willing to trouble him-/her-self with constantly switching roles between an angel and a demon (Do you agree this constant switching is really tiring?), just to ensure they grow up to become responsible people for themselves and for the others?

Need 5: Food & Shelter

There are mouths to feed and we work to get income to cover expenses. Do those children's parents or guardians have adequate resources to cover these very basic human needs?

Thanks to the support from family and my manager, in the past three months I was able to volunteer again. This time I participated in helping craft the new strategic plan over the next decade, for the university that I work for.

The working group I was in focused on Global Connectivity from higher education organizations to support the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations, to be achieved by 2030. 

The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Of the 17 goals, 5 concern children, namely, our hopes of future, or people your children and my children will be encountering.  

The initiatives proposed by our working group pertained to not only increase research / applications in advancing these goals, but also raise awareness in the community to mobile localized efforts on global issues.

Being the least knowledgeable person on these topics within the group, I happily accepted the nomination for the coordinator role so that I could do my contribution while learning from the other experts. It was a good three months and I am very excited about how higher education institutions are putting efforts to help our next generation become true global citizens.

I'd like to end by sharing a quote from the organizer:

"Owning a passport from another country doesn't automatically make you global, but could just be bi-cultural, and these two are very different."


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