Agism

The Jibbers and his Napa, 2010

The Jibbers and his Napa, 2010

Segregating the old and the sick enables a fantasy, as baseless as the fantasy of capitalism’s endless expansion, of youth and health as eternal, in which old age can seem to be an inexplicably bad lifestyle choice, like eating junk food or buying a minivan, that you can avoid if you’re well-educated or hip enough.

Full article can be found here.

While visiting family on a recent trip to Toronto, the Jibbers and I found ourselves hanging out with some friends at a local convention; she and her husband have three children, and Josh and I have the Jibbers who sometimes feels like three children all wrapped in one.

While her two boys and the Jibbers played, I asked her to watch him for a second while I quickly picked up something at a nearby bazaar stall. Upon my return, I found the Jibbers sitting on a chair at a table with an elderly gentleman on one side, and his about-nine-year-old grandson on the other side. My friend was right near him keeping a watchful eye on all of it.

I rushed over and asked her in a loud whisper, “Who is he talking to?” She thought it was someone we knew. We didn’t, but he  seemed comfortable and at ease in the full flow of conversation. I went over and greeted everyone and asked the Jibbers how he was. In that beautiful preschool chatter, he began to recount the conversation with pleasant interjections from the gentleman and his grandson.

I thought about this incident for quite a while afterwards and especially in light of the experiences I want the Jibbers to be exposed to. We just spent five weeks with my parents, the Jibbers’ Nama and Napa and I was enthralled to see him interacting with them. I was also amused at his interaction and relative ease with which he was conversing both with the elderly gentleman and his grandson.

It makes me think about the variety of experiences that are necessary for the development of our children. When I was younger, being as shy as I was I gravitated towards the elderly in any gathering. They had a way of bringing me out of my shyness and I always enjoyed the stories they shared. It was just one of those things where my mum would always comment that I had an old soul.

While I went to public school and for the most part enjoyed the experience, I feel we miss out when we confine our children to experiences with peers of the same age. I strongly believe that beyond just being authority figures, those who are older – and younger – enrich the learning experience for any child.

Part of this is also the concept of khidma or service to others. I remember being encouraged to serve or help elders and young-ins and I want the Jibbers to experience it as well. Since we are quite far from our families, I’ve been able to connect with an elderly lady at a nursing home whom we’ve decided to visit at least once a week. I find myself having to step back while my son and her are engrossed in conversation. While I might get worried about his behaviour or think that what he is doing might be annoying, she just smiles and let’s him be and tells me that it’s alright. She likes it and he enjoys the doting attention.

I want the Jibbers to grow up with elders surrounding him and as part of his everyday. I don’t want them to be something separate from his regular routine, but fully integrated in it. My idea of an integrated curriculum. There are so many lessons that my parents and the elderly can teach young ones. Even more than that, they are done with their raising and disciplining and are able to enjoy what childhood is. On the flip side, the Jibbers benefits from the knowledge, wisdom, patience and experience of these interactions.

“And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both, as they did care for me when I was young.”

~ Quran, Chapter 17 Verse 24

Part of this goes back to the concept of khidma, and a part of it is the idea that the elderly are part of society and must be integrated into it, not hidden away. We are responsible for them for what they’ve done for us, in the same way our children will be responsible for us. Stemming from that is also that they must be respected for their knowledge, wisdom and experience. How can we teach it to our own children if we aren’t exposing them to this critical part of society?

How do you encourage interaction with different age groups with your children, particularly with the elderly?

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~ by Omaira on January 28, 2013.

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