Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Be whatever you want to be and Antbee*

Of all the inspiring posts I have been reading lately, barely registering their meaning in the rush between one sleepy blink and another, this is not what I would have chosen to respond to. Of all the wonderful posts by Swistle, some thought provoking, some inspiring, some entertaining, this is not what I would have chosen to write about. Yet, here I am, trying to sort out my thoughts, trying not to make a mess of things by making a short comment which will be - well, a mess.

Basically (if you haven't yet been to read the post after all the links I gave you), Swistle takes exception to the ever optimistic tone of children's tv programs, which promise -

1. You can be anything.
2. You should always be yourself.
3. If you are unsuccessful, unhappy, or unliked, it is because you're not believing in yourself and/or being yourself.

Now, I haven't watched these programs, I don't have as much child rearing experience as Swistle does, and I do not share the same background as her. Yet, I do see what she is getting at; probably you do too if you have read her post (and also at least some of hers before, to get an idea of the kind of person she is). It is an unrealistic and oversimplified picture of the real world; there are disappointments in real life, and it is not always possible to be what you want to be.

But I also, very easily, see the other side of the picture. All of us need inspiration; at the times when all seems dark, it surely helps to know that light is possible, and that it can be within our reach if we try. As new as children are, very early they learn to limit themselves by what they have been told, what they see, what they are taught. So they also have to be told about the endless possibilities in this world. When Nadia dazzled the world with her perfect tens, I was but a child, in a place where there were no gyms, no gymnastics. I still dreamed that I could be like her one day. That I am instead just an overweight sedentary lazy book reader does not in any way take away from the beauty of the dream, nor its possibility. Had I tried to find a teacher, had my dream been less of a daydream to while away time, and more of a burning passion, I could have been at least a fitter person today even if I did not win Olympic golds!

I did have a passion though, something which didn't materialize, and which I ultimately folded and kept away in the attic of the past. Many reasons led to that point in time when I gave up that dream; some were solely my responsibility, others were beyond my control. Does that mean I should not have believed in that dream, shouldn't have followed it to a point where it was all my life? That I should have been told, very early on, that it was not possible for 98% of people to become what I wanted to be? Of course not. Throughout our lives we make choices, choosing at each crossroads the best we can, given our circumstances and level of knowing at that point. Some of mine were wrong, and I could yet have reached the happy isles, if I had known about them - then. But this knowledge, this knowing of self, I have only achieved through traveling the one way road we call life. There is no going back, no backspacing and re-writing. If I were living again, I would likely be making the same mistakes, taking the same road, without the benefit of this retrospective analysis. But, truly, who knows? It may be so, or not. But if I had started out being told, and repeatedly, that the chances of success were low indeed, that would have set me up for failure, and not only that, but for blaming everyone else except myself for so failing. Don't get me wrong - even blaming self is not quite the right attitude: blame is the guilty word here. But, at least, when I have tried and failed, I can take pride in knowing that I did my best, thinking that it was possible. Believing I was setting up to fail, I might not have tried so hard, shrugged the failure away as 'chances were poor anyway', absolved myself, learnt no lessons.

Yes, I am able to see that it is entirely possible to enter an arena knowing your odds, fight against them and win - simply because you care enough to defeat those odds. Or that it is possible, even recommended, to start a business venture with realistic expectations, expecting to fail, to lose money and time, and so win through to the end, to succeed. Yes, it is true of me as well - I can handle the chances and still put in my best. But that is now. Not when I was a child, nor even a young adult. Children need hope, encouragement, endless possibility; they need dreams.

And also, they need reality checks, need to be shown the road ahead, complete with thorns and potholes. That too is our job, as parents and teachers.

But television? It is not really a job for tv programs, (watched by thousands of children, each different from the other), is it? Would you really like your child to be told that it is not possible to be anything you want to be, that it is better to be a hypocrite, that lies serve, after all, better than the truth? There are two parts to it: about being told that you can be anything you want,

...save a komodo dragon, and that it is best to be true to yourself. I am not sure about the first part, but about the latter, I know that some parents would actually like that. The kind of parents who teach their children to bully, to cheat and lie, to bribe and be corrupt - because in their words, 'it is a cut-throat world, so get ahead however you can'. I am afraid I have no empathy with them, none at all. Not as parents, but as people.

But I am afraid I digress. The programs we see on tv are like books we read - we have a choice in the matter regarding what we choose. Unlike books, however, tv is more pervasive and has far fewer choices. I do agree that programming should be responsible, avoid stereotypes, encourage without being overly simplistic. Yet, given a choice between a program which encourages my children to dream of becoming whatever they want to be, and one which cautions to the contrary, I know I would choose the former.

After all, I am there to teach the rest of it.

"Let the truth of Jack and the Beanstalk enter her mind
Equally true with the location of the post office
Because a beanstalk whereon a washerwoman's son
May climb above the clouds,
Is so impossible, it will train her soul
For the great impossibilities..."

Carl Sandburg, in "Prayer for the child Margaret who is six"

And because it has been some time now since we have had stories here, today we have
AntBee, a small site owned by AntBee, Inc. of USA. As far as I can make out, the site is still in the process of being 'finished', but I can't be sure how long this has been going one, for I don't think I have seen many changes in the past six months or more since I bookmarked it. Of course, we would have visited it maybe once or twice in this duration, so take my impressions with a grain of salt please!

The site layout is simple with no ads except one tiny one, maybe. The written material occupies only the left part of your screen, roughly as a square. Home is where you are, and more stories is the only other link except for parent's corner.

The stories are in the form of simple illustrations with one or two sentences to accompany each, with no multi-media content or flash animation, which makes it easy for dial ups. The page numbers are listed on the right, which is what you use to move to the next one. There is a 'what do you think' page too, which you can use if you wish.

There are nine stories in all, but they are not all visible on the 'more stories' page. Rather, you will have to click the drop down menu there to find them. As far as stories go, they are ok I think, but then literature is always such a subjective matter that I daren't comment more. Plus, I can never resist a story, no matter what!

The parent's corner has their privacy policy, and contact information, and a some links, of which quite a few are broken. There is also a survey which you could fill and help them in making the site something you'd like.

The url - http://www.antbee.com

P.S. Sour grapes? Or living the real life?

Wow, that is pretty!
It is a purse.
A purse? Really?
Wish I had it! How much is it?
Whoa! Guess, for a work of art that is an ok price, but I sure wish I could make it myself.
Wonder if it is washable though. Those little crinkles will gather dust like anything...

Purses and other everyday art objects made from polymer clay at artist Kathleen Dustin's site.

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