I really like Carnival! More the traditional carnival of the small villages of my childhood than the one we imported from Brazil, but it is, in any case, a time of fun, of joy that , by observation, always brings me a moment of reflection.
We complain about the masks that adults use every day, pretending to be who they are not, pretending to be what they don’t feel, hiding what they think, lying, living a fake life. We even feel that at Carnival, some have the opportunity to actually remove the true masks of life and during those days live with greater freedom.
In life, we put on the mask of the perfect woman/man, the best professional, the “boss”, the superhero who fears nothing, the one who never fails, the champion, the one who has a perfect life, the perfect father/mother, the one who has a lot of money, the one who never screams, the one who is not depressed, the one that loves what he does, who is always fine…
We put on these masks almost unconsciously in order to live up to others’ expectations of us. Some we acquired throughout our lives, others last from the time we were children. And without realizing it, we entered the living wheel of the farce…
At this time of Carnival, I propose a reflection: what masks do we put on our children?
When my daughter cries in pain, sadness or frustration and I tell her: “don’t cry”, “there’s no reason to cry”, “it’ll pass” instead of listening to her, respecting her feelings and helping her to manage these emotions, what do I do if not putting on her the “mask of the strong one”, even when she feels weak, needy, disappointed, in need of being listened to and understood?
When my son picks up his sister’s dolls to play with and I say “you can’t play with that because it’s a girl’s game” or when I insist on dressing my daughter as a princess when she just wants to wear pants, what do I do if not putting on them the “gender mask”, preventing them from expressing themselves and expressing how they feel?
When I want and insist that my son start reading and writing even before the primary school, when I fill him with activities and don’t leave him free time to play, when I expect his behavior to always be calm, respectful and focused, that am I doing if I not put on the “older mask” on him, not letting him to be the child he is, at the age he actually is?
When I call my children or my students: lazy, stupid, silly, incompetent, boring, stupid, assigning labels to themselves and not to their behavior, what am I doing if not put on them “personality masks” in which they believe and that often last throughout life?
When I say to my daughter “I don’t love you like that”, “you don’t even look like my daughter” or even when I praise her or say that I love her only when she does things I approve, what am I doing if not put the “mask of expectation” on her, that she will try to fulfill, believing that my love is conditional? Or often reaching adolescence, removing the mask and giving me the feeling that in reality I no longer know her?
We put so many masks on children (these and many others!), that most grow up unable to be what they really are, believing in the labels they receive and behaving in accordance with the expectations of parents, teachers, friends, of society.
We reach adulthood with low self-esteem, often disguised in arrogant confidence, with “Facebook or Instagram -like” lives, full of good times, good photos, perfect relationships, when in fact we get lost along the way…
We got used to this “life” and we don’t even realize the fear we have to take off our masks, because we no longer know who we are behind them.
May this Carnival be an opportunity to have fun, but also to (re)connect with ourselves, looking in the “mirror” and reflecting on the masks we have been accumulating throughout our lives.
May it also be an opportunity to look at each child, each child, each student, just as they are and not as we hope them to be.
May we create moments of connection. With whom we love. Being what we are. Simply and without masks.
Article originally published here: https://blog.academiadeparentalidade.com/2017/02/23/carnaval-os-dias/