“Camp Kailina” has come and gone, and I’ve discovered something strange. Rich kids don’t like child’s play.
There are obvious pros and cons of this. I’m a big fan of treating kids like adults because then they grow into adults, instead of big children. However, that philosophy has more to do with how you talk to children and what you expose children to. The kids I was working with were almost the opposite of this. You couldn’t talk to them like adults because they fundamentally couldn’t understand, and their exposure to anything is almost nil. However, the one thing they had been exposed to was their parents frantic behavior.
A common problem with affluent families is their tendency to think that everyone lives like them and, consequently, that their lives are incredibly important. The women I work for don’t work. Yet, they can’t find the time to do anything for their children. Laundry, cleaning, and cooking are impossible tasks to fit into their “busy” schedule. They just “can’t find the time anywhere in the week.” It baffles me because they don’t work, and when I’m there they go shopping, or out to lunch with their friends, or even take naps. So, what do they do with their time? I couldn’t tell you, honestly. What I can tell you is that this attitude is negatively rubbing off on their children.
During what has come to be called “Camp Kailina,” I tried to have days packed of fun activities. Activities that I, as a child, loved more than anything else. From swimming at the beach, to playing at the playground, to story time at the library, to baking, to flying kites, I wanted to do it all with these children because I know that they don’t get that sort of play time normally.
Yet, with each of the activities came resistance. I heard over and over during Camp Kailina that “I don’t know how to do that,” and “Trying is too hard.” Excuse me? Trying is too hard? I see this attitude with everything be it writing, drawing, fort building, kite flying, or anything else ever — if they don’t know how to do it already, they don’t want to do it. Plus, once I got them to try each of these activities, it only held their attention for at most thirty minutes.
When we would get home from our morning of activity, they had time to themselves for some independent play. What I saw was unbelievable to me. They pretended to be on iPhones and ran around like their heads were cut off yelling, “So much to do! So much to do!” But they never actually did anything. They just kept running around pretending to text. It was absurd. They were like miniature versions of their parents.
Now, I’m sure some will say that this is an issue across all classes these days, but I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. This is an issue with the Upper Middle and Upper classes. I work with lots of children who don’t fall into these subsets of society, and they are nothing like this. They will play all day building forts in the woods, play hide and seek, building fairy houses, etc. It makes it seem like the lower classes have more of an imagination as children than the upper classes. I far prefer working with lower class children because they really are eager to learn, and they’re smart. I want to cultivate that in them. Every wealthy child I’ve ever worked with has little imagination, little desire to learn, and wants everything to be done for them. This is obviously not universally true, but it’s definitely the norm.
When I work with these children, I try to get them away from this. I try to inspire something else in them, but, of course, I’m not the prevailing force in their lives. Their parents need to be more involved, less distracted, and take this precious time in a child’s life seriously. They will probably end up well-off for their whole lives regardless, but if parents don’t take advantage of their sponge-like brains, then — even with all the money and connections — their children are going to end up stupid, unable to think for themselves.