I’m a child care provider, but I’m not just a child care provider, I’m a play based child care provider. Which makes me even more fired up about this (as you can tell from the title) than the average progressive-parenting talking head. A big part of that exasperation comes from the fact that if the worries and fears that parents express to me were a bonus to my paycheck I’d be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Here are a few recent gems:
“If they don’t use flashcards, how will they know their animal sounds?”
“She gets her numbers, but I can’t seem to get her to start at number one.”
“He has no interest in puzzles, and I’m afraid he won’t know how to do puzzles unless I encourage him and show him how.”
These are all well-meaning parents who want their children to succeed. They want to make sure they’re doing all they can for them so that they can develop at the best rate possible. The problem is… the more parents try to control their child’s development, the less able the child is to develop naturally as they were meant to do. The more parents prod and poke toward “mastering a skill”, the more insecure and dependent the child becomes. This goes for all children- newborns to college students.
I know this concept is completely foreign and might seem borderline neglectful to some. Painting outside today, one of my most proactive daycare parents asked me if I’ve worked with my daughter on her colors. When I asked what she meant she said, “you know, like sat down and taught her what they were.”
I don’t want to blame this amazing mom for this naïve idea. Most all of us were indoctrinated with this classroom concept of the heroic teacher summoning the students to their seats so that they could distribute necessary information, as a nurse gives the proper dosage of medication to his patients. Breaking free from this paradigm was the beginning of me finding my calling in life.
So, the truth is I’ve never sat down and “taught” Sierra anything. I’ve never tried to explain anything to her unless she specifically asks me about it.
How did she learn Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple?
I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Yes, maybe it’s because we sing songs, we read books, I ask her what color shirt she wants to wear that day. We might see a butterfly and I might exclaim, “What a beautiful orange butterfly!” But maybe it’s not. And that’s ok.
Sometimes she will say an orange object is red. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t keep a checklist of all the things she says and does perfectly. There is no such thing as a perfect body of knowledge. She is not a computer that I download software to. She’s a whole being, a universe unto herself. She has her own will and her own soul. The knowledge she gets, she acquires through her own senses, with her own methods, from real life experiences. These rich, real-world experiences are so much more meaning-FULL than flimsy pieces of cardstock with cartoon images and bold print. The truth: If you want your child to “be smart,” you are being simple.
What I want, and what I wish, is for children to be themselves. Let them fall behind. Let them jump ahead. Let them experience you caring for them, caring about them. All a child needs to grow healthy, strong and happy is plenty of fresh air, as much freedom as is practical and safe, good nutritious food, and stable, loving caregivers who are there to take care of them in the ways they cannot themselves.
Framed by my bedside is a photograph of a mother lovingly embracing her child. Written over it is the following quote:
“I honor the dignity and integrity of my child with my attention, warmth and regard.”
Remember that at the most basic level- all you need to do to do an AWESOME job as a mom or dad is take care of their basic needs, and acknowledge their feelings. You will make mistakes, and so will they. Learn to let them go. Just feel the weight of expectation lifting off your shoulders, and know that you are lifting it off their shoulders as well.