Tuesday, October 25, 2011
What are your aims as a parent?
Sunday afternoon: blue skies, warm sunshine and a slight breeze that cut through the warmth. A local reserve, a stunning spot we often visit for walks and to see kangaroos rest lazily on the hills, a quiet place that’s good for the soul.
On this day, we took Abbey’s kite and helped her fly it in the gentle gusts of wind. I lay back and watched it, like a fluorescent rainbow twirling, and smiled at my daughter. She ran and looked up at it in amazement.
Lately, something has hit me with a sudden clarity. I’m seeing my daughter transform before my eyes: from baby to toddler to pre-schooler, if you like labels. In real terms, though, I’m watching her grow up and I’m aware that we need to adjust to her new needs.
Next year marks a big change for my little girl. She’ll be starting pre-school, and with that comes a new set of rules and expectations. I have a sense of unease, not about the pre-school or their program, not about her ability to cope, but about the race that will begin – has already begun – in the minds of others. The expectation that she should learn to read and write, and the sooner the better – and that I should sit with her to teach her such things.
The unease I feel is this sense that the fun is over – now it’s time to get serious. This is her education and I need to do certain things so she can compete in the race.
As parents, we teach, absolutely. Abbey learns about colours while we play games and talk about the things we see. She can count because we count things as we go about our day. She can measure things, because we cook together. She knows about road safety, because we walk every day, about animals because we look around our environment. We are covering the solid bases of literacy when we read stories, when she draws and imitates my writing.
She learns things as we go about our lives.
She’s a clever child, there’s no doubting that – she asks, listens, experiments, understands. But there’s one comment I get more than anything else when people see my girl: “She’s so full of joy”.
When I see that joy, see her doing something as simple as flying a kite on a sunny day, running with bare feet in the soft grass – that’s when I feel like the best parent in the world. I know she feels loved and secure, I can see that she loves life. These things will, I hope, help her enjoy and do well in her formal education when it begins.
All of this has hit me, like an equation finally working out to the correct answer, and I know what I want for my little Abbey. I want the fun to continue, the joy to remain. I couldn’t bear to squash that spirit – probably couldn’t even if we did try. I want her to learn from life.
I don’t want her competing in the race. I want to think long-term, about the foundations we need to set that are far more important than her being able to write her name by a certain age. We will let her teachers take control of her formal education, while remaining involved and supporting that. But we need to what we do best, what only we can do for our girl: parenting her so that she loves, learns and is free.
What are your aims as a parent?
Posted at 7:12 AM