To become a fellow player

The most important thing in times of war …

by Renate Dünki

As a small child, I experienced the dangers, the threat of the Second World War and I still remember them indelibly: the air-raid shelter, the fear of the droning approach of airplanes, the daily efforts of all the adults to find food for the large family in the smallest of spaces. The fact that the children fitted in, were quiet when their great-grandmother slept behind a screen, was a matter of course, not worth a great deal of talk. The life-preserving cohesion in the family is what has remained unforgettable to me from that time. It was about essential things: survival, a roof over one’s head. In the time after that, it was about the freedom to read, about culture that wanted to tie in with the time before fascism. I experienced all this in my early childhood and can still draw from it today.

And today …

I am all the more concerned about the issues with which our society is oppressed and manipulated today, how the meaning of the family is disturbed, how our children have to grow up without history. And it is all the more exciting for me, even in our confused present, to experience children who can still grow up “in the bosom of the family”.

Favourite toy: a screwdriver

Once again I need the help of a professional for a technical problem, so I set off. In a family business near me, daughter and son-in-law work in the “Übergwändli” [workwear] in their father’s job. Father and mother do office work, consulting, customer service, and behind the office desk the grandson has his kingdom: all kinds of toys, a high chair. He is one and a half years old, a close observer, threads himself into all the adults’ movements, is in eye contact with them. His favourite thing is a screwdriver to tighten the screws of a bench, but he also likes a key, which he successfully inserts into the keyhole. He walks nimbly and purposefully, always has a plan, because he always learns something from the adults’ activities, imitates them and practices again and again. Children’s books for his age do not interest him, but he leafs through brochures of tools with perseverance, which he recognises and shows. His little fingers are dexterous, his eyes alert. The grandparents have a telephone call to make, something to show a customer. Their grandson is there in the background without disturbing the work.

The mother has things to do

When his mother comes, they greet each other and rejoice; he knows she is there, but she doesn’t stay long, she has things to do, and then others are there: the father, the grandparents, the staff. Everyone turns to each other, they all speak a few words to the little one, calmly and naturally. He is not the king child, but already in these young years a fellow player.
  As a farewell, he waves to me on his grandmother’s arm. Elated, I make my way home. This experience shows me again how a child is dependent on relationships, how he or she is positively guided by role models within the family circle, and how he or she can actively develop his or her own path. This also today.  •

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