I am here to protect the creative genius in babies and children. This is my purpose.
A road less traveled led me to the NASA study or the Creative Genius Test performed by researcher, George Land. I learned about this in 2020 from the Human Solidarity Workshop presented by the Soul Focused Group. My knowledge of this study was a catalyst that led me to quit my job, resign from six boards and ultimately leave a successful career in the nonprofit industry.
The study shows that from the ages of 4-5 (which coincidentally is when we enter grade school), we operate at 98% of our creative genius, which is our ability to solve problems, think outside of the box, and be one with our true, authentic selves.
By the age of 10, we're operating at 30% (Yes! A 68% decrease)
At the age of 15, we're operating at 12%
At the age of 23, we're operating at a mere 2%
I immediately said to the facilitators that the people who are operating at 2% of their creative genius are teaching the people operating at 98% of theirs.
For me, it has always been about the children - then, now, and in the future. I was inspired to write this blog after reading a post on the "Peace and Parenting" Instagram account that talked about the stigma around being friends with our children. I am the mother of a teenage son and I do consider myself his friend. There are boundaries, of course, as in any relationship but the foundation of friendship - respect, love, kindness, and trust are absolutely present. We often forget that children are just as human as we are, and the difference in age does not make us, as adults, more important or more deserving of respect.
Our roles as parents and caregivers have largely been touted as authoritarian roles, which are very one-sided and outfitted with rules, restrictions, and discipline. We say things like, "Do what I say, not as I do" or "Because I said so" or use punishment (verbal and physical) as a form of correction without knowing why. We only know that those things were said and done to us, so we pass it down from generation to generation like a family recipe, only this recipe does not turn out so well.
My career has been largely centered around children, babies in particular, and what became more and more apparent to me is that if I wanted to help babies and children thrive and develop into healthy, whole individuals, then I was going to have to serve the people who have the most influence over them - parents, teachers, and coaches.
In 2014, I embarked on a journey to study the root causes of infant mortality and founded Birthing Beautiful Communities, a perinatal support organization that provides doula training, and doula services to new and expecting mothers, free of charge. The State of Ohio was in desperate need of finding a solution to the growing infant death problem. I believed doulas could be a key, and so in 2016, I was invited to join a new initiative led by the Cleveland Foundation - The Greater University Circle Community Health Initiative designed to focus on infant mortality and lead poisoning in specific Cleveland neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods were predominately Black communities.
The initiative was made up of many institutions and community-based organizations. When developing the logo and slogan as a team, the Executive Director of Fatima Family Center, LaJean Ray, suggested "And how are the children?" as a tagline. She explained while reading a book, she discovered that when the Maasai tribe greet one another, that instead of asking, "How are you doing?", they ask about the future generations. We all agreed that it was the perfect question to ask as part of our campaign and work.
If I asked myself that question today, my answer would be exactly what it was in 2016 at that table - Not good. Our children are not doing as well as they could be - and for that, we must look to the adults in their lives and ask, "How are they doing?" If they are not well, then the children also cannot be well.
So, how are the adults doing? We can turn on the news and read the consistently available statistics to know how adults are really doing. Mental health issues, poverty, divorce, and violence are just a few to top the list, but the bigger perspective here is that these adults were all ONCE children, so the million-dollar question is how are we developing children into well adults? Before we get to that answer, let's first understand how children become unwell adults.
ALL beings learn from the demonstration set forth by their caregivers. Animals are nonverbal and learn by watching the generations before them. Cubs learn to hunt, build, and hibernate from their bear caregivers, for example. Humans are a more evolved species who can use verbal communication but how we learn is all the same - from the people who spend the most time with us - our caregivers.
If our caregivers are loving, kind, supportive, and healthy, then our children will become loving, kind, supportive, and healthy, simply through demonstration. If our caregivers are disempowered and have negative emotions, then our children will become disempowered and filled with negative emotions. We teach our children what to care about and what not to care about. Here's an example of how we plant the seed in our children through our actions or inactions.
In the Summer of 2018, I went to the only public recreation center in East Cleveland, Ohio, a predominately Black city, to pick up my son's football equipment. My first visit inside gave me the greatest shock because the floors of the gym were buckled, with orange cones and caution tape serving as a warning for children not to play in those areas. There were 100 kids occupying the space and the mood was just a normal day in the gym, except this was not normal to me. I immediately started asking the adults questions and filmed the floors as a cry for help, while I asked for support from the community to restore the gym.
I was so angry that I got in my car and cried on my way home, filming a video of me yelling at the adults in that community asking how could they allow this to happen and why hadn't they done anything about this. I was a visitor. I didn't live in East Cleveland. That was my first time in that gym. Why did I see this as a problem and no one did, or at least no one felt the urgency of it?
I needed to know because it wasn't just this gym - it was the other gym in Cleveland, Thurgood Marshall recreation center, that had no heat in it for three years until I came to watch my son play basketball and noticed everyone in the gym with coats on in the middle of winter. When I asked the adults who worked there, why there was no heat? They explained that the city had not sent anyone out to repair it - in three years! The following week, I wrote an email and visited the recreation director at the city and demanded they fix the heat. They sent repair technicians out three days later.
The common thread in this was a sense of disempowerment. In both cases, the adults felt powerless to change something in their communities. In my experience, I have come to understand that if you feel disempowered in your own life, then you will feel disempowered in all other areas of your life, including the ability to advocate for your children. Your demonstration of powerlessness teaches your children how to be disempowered so they don't learn to advocate for themselves.
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
How do we become so disempowered?
We're only operating at 2% of our creative genius. Being disconnected from our problem-solving abilities, our creativity, and our authentic selves is a recipe for feelings of powerlessness.
So how do we restore our creative genius?
Good question. We have to want to.
The first step is awareness.
If we are aware that we are in the 2% range and desire to get on what I call "The Journey to 98%" which is also the name of my masterclass, then we have answered the call of our soul's desire - to reconnect to our most authentic, creative self.
Most of this has to do with identifying limiting beliefs and replacing them with limitless beliefs that affirm our personal power, creative ability, and capability.
Our personal transformation serves as a demonstration and positive example for our children as we work to discover our magic, regain confidence, and a strong sense of self.
As for the gym in East Cleveland, it has been completely renovated. A few months after I posted that video online, Allyson Carpenter and Kevin Thompson formed a group named EC Rise and we had over 200 volunteers come out and remove the floors - a job that would have cost over $100,000.
We have the power to transform our communities, but we must start by transforming ourselves and developing that inner power, so when we ask "And how are the children?", we can confidently and truthfully respond with, "The children are well."