As I was considering a response to this blogging prompt, my grandson, Elliott, decided that he wanted to take a block from his younger cousin while they were all playing together in the living room. The bedroom is also full of toys, safety equipment, and a baby gate secured at the door. The response to Elliott’s unwillingness to share was to place him in timeout in the bedroom. Comically, the number of toys in the bedroom would not constitute what most people would call discipline or punishment. In fact, most kids would consider this a treat. Not only would he not have to share, being in the room alone, but he had access to different toys than the other children who were still in the living room playing. Yet, he was in timeout. He was being punished for not playing well with others because he was not being ALLOWED to play with them?!?! As I pondered on this contradiction between punishment and giving him exactly what he had wanted, I found my understanding of today’s prompt.
Today, I am reaching out to an entire world of potential readers. I still have access to others and all of the things that I may possibly want including some elements of life that others may have no access to. Yet, when I opted to work from home as a freelance academic writer, I essentially put myself in timeout. My interactions were minimal and my ability to move from the confinement of my online world to the physical world outside became restricted as my workload increased. This was a voluntary situation, at first. I no longer wanted to live in the hustle and bustle of the outside world. I wanted only to enjoy my family and my coffee. Essentially, I only wanted the toys that had been outside of my reach when I was out in the world with others.
The same is true of many writers, bloggers, and social media addicts. For purposes from work to anxiety, people have become more comfortable only accessing the parts of the real world that can be found in timeout. Their connection to others has been shielded by the presence of safety equipment and a gate that they have secured at their door. Yet, just as did Elliott, at some point, people begin to look for a way to break free from their solitude. They need someone to share with or to communicate with. Once out of timeout, however, if they have remained too long, they are uncertain how to reintegrate into the outside world. With an entire generation of those who have been in voluntary timeout for the majority of their lives, we see on the news that re-emerging can be confusing and leave newcomers at the hands of extremists as their mentors and guides into society. They are confused as to whether or not the world in solitude was a punishment or if they have entered into a real world of such violence that they must either participate or retreat to the safety of their confinement.
We must, as a society, be there to mentor one another. Just as we do with a toddler who acts out, we must explain the differences between right and wrong as they pertain to the real world. We must do so without anger or judgment. The period of timeout is over and we must rejoin the rest of the children in the living room. Can we please do so with love and respect for one another?
Guiding Children is a Blessing: Guiding Ourselves is a Challenge,