Wednesday, August 31, 2011

G Is For Glue Guns Vs. (White) Glue




(Deborah Stewart of the Teach Preschool blog and Facebook page was perhaps the first early childhood blogger I met when I began doing this. She came and found me, like she has so many others these past 2+ years, welcoming me, supporting me, often the only one commenting on my posts that otherwise were being sent out into the apparently empty ether. She is a remarkable, generous, tireless community builder, a woman who has taught me so much about the power of the internet not just as a communications medium, but also as a genuine "place" in which a warm, creative community can thrive.

Today, her Teach Preschool Facebook page surged past 20,000 fans -- I'm proud to say I was one of the first 100. I'm honored to have been asked to take part in the celebration with this post. Congratulations Deborah and thank you. It's quite likely that without you, I would have given this up long ago.
)

*****

I had always been a white school glue kind of teacher, my classes going through gallons of it each year, but I had a come to Jesus kind of experience last summer when it comes to its limitations, and through that an epiphany about the capabilities of the children.

We were in the midst of our inaugural summer session when it dawned on me that we really hadn't done much with glue, so I broke out a stack of corrugated cardboard and cut it into various shapes and sizes for collage making. We've done this kind of monochrome project many times over the years -- there tends to be a lot of talk about shapes, sizes, recycling, and the use of glue. The finished pieces are usually landscapes of texture and angular shadow. Not bad for a preschool art project.



There are always a few kids who get the idea of going 3-D, but because of the slow-drying nature of the glue and the jostling about typical of a classroom full of kids, the structures almost always wind up getting pancaked. As I sat watching Ava struggle with her efforts, I almost couldn't watch, knowing that no matter how hard she tried, no matter how long she persevered, her structure's 2-D destiny was assured.


I was right, of course, and as her house of cards tumbled down before her eyes, having added one bit too many, she finally walked away, philosophical it seemed, but with her artistic vision unrealized.

There was a steady trickle of kids engaged at the art table throughout the morning, but it didn't surprise me to pass by later in the morning to find our Northwest wildlife identification chart on the table, evidence that some level of boredom or frustration had come to call. (Not that I have anything against identifying native animals, but come on, we're an urban school: the only thing we have to identify are squirrels and crows.)


White glue has its place, but as I left to walk the dogs that afternoon, I was thinking about Ava and the limitations imposed by this languid, non-toxic, washable, 24-hours-to-cure medium.

That's right, hot glue guns were on my mind.

So on the following day, when Sadie and Venezia's mom Medora took her place at the work bench as the parent-teacher in charge of the station, she found a stack of cardboard and 3 hot glue guns. In fairness to the white glue collage efforts from earlier in the week, I also added various cutting tools and a box of theatrical lighting gel scraps, and moved it outdoors, but essentially it was the same project just using a different adhesive. Thinking about Ava's frustrated efforts, my only instruction was, "They can make whatever they want, but maybe they'll want to build a house."
















Are you kidding me? It's night and day.

Granted, moving the whole thing outdoors was also part of opening up possibilities for the kids. The expansive opportunity of incorporating wood chips, pine cones, and other "naturally occurring" objects from the environment are evident. (Are we the only preschool on earth for which beer bottle caps and wine corks qualify as naturally occurring objects?) Still, look what the glue guns made possible! They got on a roll, their visions became immediately manifest, their conversations full of "What if . . ." and "Why don't we . . .?" and "Let's . . ."  It was an explosion of creativity and cooperation. And it was that tool, the hot glue gun, that gave them the power to make their ideas real. 

White glue will still be part of our repertoire going forward, but I regret all those years I withheld these mighty tools from the children, limiting them, for fear that they might go home with tiny red burns on their thumbs.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Spoiled Brats"































Whenever I write or talk about treating children as if they are fully formed humans and not just incomplete adults, like I did yesterday, there are some who ask me about (or even accuse me of) "spoiling" the kids. They then go on to tell me horror stories about how permissive parents have let their rotten kids take over their lives, bossing them around, dominating their households, terrorizing their peers, and frustrating their teachers.

It's hard, I think, for some people to understand the world without a hierarchical framework: someone has to be the boss -- if it's not the parent, it's the child. When I suggest paying attention to the words we use with children, avoiding the language of command, and instead choosing statements of fact which allow children to practice taking responsibility for their own actions, I understand how some people fear that it will become a slippery slope down which the whole carefully constructed family org chart will slide. I understand how it might seem that if you're not bossing your child, she will take advantage, gain the upper hand, and assume the scepter. To believe this takes a view of human nature that I've not found to be true, but I understand it.

So let me state right here: I'm all for fewer "spoiled" children in the world (although I'd like us to retire that label along with "bully," "aggressive," and "shy").  These children are characterized as self-centered and demanding, inconsiderate of others, see their needs as most important, and will resort to often extreme behavior to get their way. These are not happy children and they tend to grow into unhappy adults who struggle with relationships, have a hard time holding jobs, and are generally miserable to be around.

The common wisdom, it seems, is that these behaviors come from not enough "tough love;" from parents who are afraid of their children, and are too namby-pamby to put their foot down, an approach popularized by such pop-psychology sensations as Dr. Phil. Sadly, this is not what psychologists who actually do research have found. So-called "spoiled" behaviors," in fact, result from things like not enough proactive attention from parents, not expecting children to do things for themselves, and a lack of clear limits, not a dearth of bossy parents.


Not enough proactive attention
The best parenting advice I ever got was from my mother, who said, "All children want is attention. If you don't give it to them, they'll take it." And indeed children, from the moment they are born, are designed to get attention from the adults around them. From a biological point of view, this makes perfect sense: they are born utterly incapable of keeping themselves alive, except to the degree that they can get adult humans to feed, clothe, and protect them. This instinct doesn't go away as they get older. When they feel ignored, they correct that problem through tantrums, whining, clinging, and other "spoiled" behaviors. They don't really care if the attention they get is negative or positive, frankly, they are just biologically driven to get your attention. So for your own sanity (and to avoid "spoiling" your child), I'd suggest proactively giving them the kind of attention you choose, because otherwise they'll choose it for you and you're probably not going to like it.

Doing too much for your kids
Awhile back, I met a woman who works in the admissions department at the University of Washington here in Seattle. She told me that increasingly freshmen are showing up on campus without such basic life skills as using can openers, cooking on a stovetop, and operating a washing machine. She said the problem is so bad that many universities have had to institute remedial life skills classes. Instead of learning to do things for themselves, "spoiled" kids have turned to mastering the skills required to get things done for them, which will often look a lot like being self-centered, demanding, and even tyrannical. So for your own sanity (and to avoid "spoiling" your child), I'd suggest teaching him to do as much for himself as his age and abilities will allow.

Lack of clear limits
As Goethe wrote, "It is within limitations that he first shows himself the master." This is where we all agree, and we can all point to examples of parents, who in the sincere interest of teaching their children independence or giving them "freedom," err on the side of a household in which anything goes. This is not a good environment for children. It tends to make them feel nervous, uncertain, and to generally demonstrate "spoiled" behaviors.

Where we tend to disagree is in how we create those limitations and how we work with those limitations.  I suppose the traditional model is for parents to lay down the law and create a system of punishments for violations. It doesn't have to be that way. In our school, for instance, all of the rules are made by the children themselves, through a process of consensus. In a decade of doing it this way, the adults have never found the need to dictate rules beyond those the children create, indeed, if anything we find we need to moderate many of their more extreme legislative efforts. Our process is one that many of Woodland Park's families have adopted in their own homes, keeping a running list of family rules on the refrigerator door to refer to as needed.

Do children break the rules? Of course they do. The adults, however, don't need to then punish them to do the job of teaching about limitations. Instead our job as adults is to point to the list of rules and say, "You and your friends agreed . . ."

So what do you do if a child keeps breaking a rule?  Certainly there's a consequence, a punishment.  If we do that, if we resort to punishment we put the focus on the punishment and the punisher, rather than where we want it to be, on the behavior. Instead we do what makes sense, we just keep reminding them until they remember on their own. No one would think of punishing a child for not, say, remembering her A-B-C's; we would patiently keep working with her until she got it. Why should teaching about limits be any different?


In other words, children aren't "spoiled" because they haven't been sufficiently bossed around by adults.



Creating a world of facts, instead of a world of commands
A mistake many of us make (and one of the things that drives critics of this approach crazy) is to think that all of this means that everything is open to negotiation, that our child gets to decide such things as when to get dressed, whether or not they go to the doctor, or where the family will eat dinner. In our effort to be super parents, we forget that we adults are fully formed humans as well. Our opinions, needs, and emotions are not made lesser because we seek to honor those of the child, but are rather equal, and to the degree that they diverge from those of our child, must often take precedence.

There are also realities of which we are aware that our children are not: schedules, for instance, courtesy to others, safety. Sometimes we must insist that we know best, but that doesn't mean we need to use the language of command. Statements of fact are not commands, such as:

     "It's time to go."
     "What you said hurt her feelings."
     "If you do that you might die."

I statements that convey our opinions or feelings are also statements of fact, such as:

     "I don't want to be late."
     "I feel sad when she's crying."
     "I don't want you to die."

Factual statements about the child's behavior can also be very powerful, such as:

     "You seem upset that it's time to go."
     "You sounded angry when you said that to her."
     "If you keep doing that you might die and that will probably hurt."

And factual statements about your own responsibilities are also important, such as:

     "I can't stay because daddy is expecting us."
     "I can't let you say hurtful things to her."
     "I can't let you cross the street by yourself."

Creating a world of facts instead of a world of commands gives children the opportunity to come to their own conclusions about their behavior, to make their own decisions about right and wrong, or to at least understand why this is one of those times when they don't get what they want. These kinds of experiences lead to a sense of responsibility, empathy, and confidence, characteristics that are the opposite of those that characterize a "spoiled" child.

Everyone's goal is a child who understands her own emotions, treats others with respect, and knows how to assess her own risks. These are all vital skills to success in life. When we boss our kids into these behaviors, we're not giving them a chance to learn anything we want them to learn; we're just forcing them to do something because "I said so." It's effective in the moment, but it teaches nothing except, perhaps, obedience -- a very dangerous habit in adulthood. When we, on the other hand, help our children see the "facts" surrounding their behaviors and choices, we allow them to actually practice these skills. Of course, they will make mistakes, just the way a carpenter has to hit his thumb a few times before he learns to use a hammer, and it might be frustrating or embarrassing for you as the parent, but experience is the only way anyone ever learns anything.


I know it sounds like a lot of work. It is, indeed, much easier to boss people around. It's hard to overcome deeply rooted habits of thought.  But it does get easier with practice. And the results are worth it.

That's how to treat your child with respect without spoiling him.


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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Language Of Command































I recognized them as the nice family from our building, their son, who looks to be approaching 3, was straddling one of those wooden, peddle-less bikes a lot of the kids are starting out on these days. He was in the midst of a mini-tantrum, stamping his feet, while emitting a whine-cry of frustration. His father was kneeling beside him. As I passed I heard the dad say, in the gentlest, most loving voice imaginable, "If you keep acting like this you won't be able to ride your bike for a whole hour. And that's a long time."

*****

Several weeks ago I was taking a recreational stroll through Pike Place Public Market, the heart and soul of Seattle, where in the summer tourists throng. A boy, probably around 8, and his mother were having one of those heatless debates:

Boy (excitedly): "I want to go down that side."

Mom (jovially): "Oh, you don't want to go down that side. Let's go down this side. What do you want to see over there anyway?"

Boy (barely audible): "That side."

By then she had taken his hand and it was over.

*****

Just down at the end my street there's a newish park at the south end of Lake Union where I often walk my dogs. During the summer, a length of the sidewalk emits fountains of water, arches under which children in bathing suits run on hot days. Every time I'm there, I hear parents saying to timid children, "Go under it!" "Get in it." "Don't be afraid."

*****

These are all just snippets overheard, out of context, and I don't know anything about the lives that lead up to those moments. We all speak with our loved ones unconsciously at times, maybe most of the time, in moments of stress or other distraction for sure, when our brains are working on things other than the relationship in which we're presently engaged. It's impossible to always be in the moment, especially as a parent, but oh if we could only really hear ourselves speaking from the perspective of a disengaged passerby, how much we'd learn about ourselves and our relationships. So much more, I think, or at least so much different, than what we know about ourselves when we are steadfastly present and aware of our every word.


I think, for many of us, the idea that the adult is "the boss" is such a deeply rooted concept that we act as if it is an unquestioned truth. And sometimes, I suppose, we are "the boss," like when we need to take charge in urgent moments where safety is concerned. Stop! Don't go in the street! That kind of thing. But too often we confuse being responsible for someone with being their superior, and that pre-supposition of command crops up in moments when there's really no point, like a bad habit.

It would never occur to us, for instance, to threaten to punish an adult for expressing an emotion like frustration in a non-violent way. In fact, I'd say stamping your feet and crying is a pretty straight-forward way to feel it, release it, then put it behind you. How much better than the adult-approved method of smiling through gritted teeth. When we threaten punishment for expressing an emotion, I think what we are really saying is, I'm embarrassed by the way you're acting. I fear it reflects poorly on me as a parent. That would be an inappropriate, incomprehensible load to lay on a child, so instead we threaten them even if we don't really mean it.


(As Lao Tzu puts it, "Let your feelings flourish and get on with your life of doing." Kids are often masters of that, if we can just let them go. Seriously, if someone has to be the boss about emotions, I'm all for playing second fiddle. We don't know more about emotions than children simply by virtue of being adults: in fact, I've learned just about everything I know about emotions from working with kids.)

And how about the idea that we get to tell children how they feel or what they really want? "You don't want to go down that side," "Oh, you're not hurt," "You don't really want that." Adding the question, "Do you?" to the end of it doesn't help. Believe me, the boy really did want to go down "that side," it does really hurt, and yes, she genuinely wants that. What we are really saying, is "I don't want to go down that side, "I wish that didn't hurt," "I don't want to give you that." What children hear is, "I don't believe you," and "I'm the grown-up, ergo, I know better." The language of command teaches children to distrust their own understanding, even of their own feelings.

I've written before about the knee-jerk use of directional statements: "Sit here," "Put that away," "Go over there." These too, clearly come from the habit of command. So ingrained is this in many of us that we direct, "Go under it!" when what we mean is, "It looks like it would be fun to go under it." We dictate, "Don't be afraid," when what we mean is, "I know you're afraid."


Perhaps as adults we've come to understand the code, to know that when our loved ones say, "Come here!" they aren't really bossing us, but rather just taking a short cut around saying, "I would like you to come over here," although I suspect most of us still feel a flash of resentment each time someone uses the language of command with us. Children, however, only hear that they are being told what to do, how to feel, and even that they might be punished for what is, after all, their own truth.

I have no expectation for you or for me that we will be able to be utterly free of this mind-set. It's a very powerful one, this idea that adults are the boss, a notion that most people will never question, let alone examine. And even those of us who are fully aware, still, in unguarded moments, often fall into the language habits of command, not just with our children, but with our spouses, friends and colleagues. It's a pervasive thing. If we work on it, however, if we're reflective and conscious, our children won't be as likely to develop the habit as they become adults.

That's, at least, the plan.

Update: I've written a follow-up to this post entitled "Spoiled Brats" which goes into more specific details and answers some questions not addressed here.


I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!



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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Who Is Going To Sit In Those Cubicles? Not These Kids!































Gees . . .

Awhile back our little corner of the internet was afizz with the idea of fizzing sidewalk chalk, an art medium produced by mixing baking soda, corn starch, water and food coloring. I saw it first on Quirky Momma, which is where you'll find the proper proportions and procedures. The idea is that you mix up this paint, apply it to your sidewalk, then squirt it with vinegar, which makes your painting fizz.


I thought Woodland Park's kids might like to give it a try, except that being the full-on commies we are, we wanted to put the means of production into the hands of the workers/players. Instead of pre-mixing the paint, or giving them any kind of instructions, we just provided the powders, water, and color (we used liquid watercolor instead of food coloring), along with some tools for mixing and paint brushes. We made a few batches of successful paint, but lacking sidewalks, we used it to paint other things like the brick wall of our building and the wooden boats we were tinkering with over on the workbench.


To be honest, however, as is generally the case, the mixing experiments took over and we wound up with very little actual fizzy sidewalk painting and lots of containers that looked like this . . .


. . . useless for painting purposes. And after making the paint fizz a few times, the squirt bottles full of vinegar became another means of scientific experimentation, although since one of those experiments is almost always to squirt the other people, often in the face, it was kind of a mad scramble to find the balance between free-form-fizzy-sidewalk-paint-based play and making sure the kids weren't getting the acidic stuff in one another's eyes. (By the way, I've finally found squirt bottles I can rely on -- Ace Hardware store brand.)

During most of our time playing with the stuff, there was a core group doing the mixing (mostly girls), and a second group doing the squirting (mostly boys), which produced a fairly harmonious mixed-gender, mixed-age exploration. When it came time to clean up, there was lots of our so-called "paint" on our work table and only a few stripes on the side of the building (the painting part of the project just really didn't engage the kids, even if it did involve painting a wall).


Not wanting to waste anything, we just dumped everything on a tray (although I did remove the squirt bottles of vinegar, making a mental note to have them available the following day filled with something less eye-stinging). The kids then fell on that, their fingers digging into this concoction that was reacting more or less like your typical cornstarch-water slime (often called oobleck).


I'm not really sure what happened to most of the oobleck, although I did find a cache buried in the sand pit. Even after we'd cleaned up for the day, kids were still fiddling with the left over dribs and drabs of their impromptu creation.


Attempting to go with the flow, the following day I gathered up what was left of our concoction and put it on one side of our sensory table, along with additional corn starch.

The boats are there because a couple of the kids had used the modified oobleck to paint
 their boats.

The other side I filled with water, envisioning a day during which the kids would expand upon their mixing/oobleck explorations.


And hidden away, off to the side, was even more corn starch that I imagined breaking out in a frenzy of big-time genius-level science!


Ooo, I was ready. The kids had showed me where they wanted to go and I'd responded. Yes! And for about 15 minutes everything went just as I'd hoped, until we had a nice basin of green gooey stuff. Then the kids started throwing everything that wasn't nailed down into it before abandoning it for the rest of the day.


This wasn't the big hit for which I'd hoped, or at least not for as long as I'd hoped. For one thing, most of the key experimenters from the day before were over at the art table where we had what I thought were two different things going on. We'd set up bowls of soapy paint. The idea is to blow a big mound of bubbles, then put a piece of paper on top of it to take a print. Next to that, attempting to get around in front of the squirt bottle craze, I'd set up some easels with the canvas I'd removed from our windmill and squirt bottles filled with liquid watercolor, with the idea that they could spray that canvas to their heart's content. After a few minutes of trying things my way, the kids then continued along their own path of exploration.


I'm pleased I thought to lay down more of our windmill canvas under this project. It turned out beautifully.


Clearly, squirting paint into the bowls of soapy paint was where the real action was.


If you look carefully in the picture above, you can see we made at least one "proper" bubble print. And if you look over by the wall, you'll see that we also got to see what happens when you spray paint a big red ball.


This squirting two bottles at one another at point-blank range was a particularly fascinating part of the experiment that lasted a long time.


This process went on for several more days as I kept trying to get around in front of the kids and the whole mixing, squirt bottle thing. As it turns out, they were just too fast for me, too creative, too passionate about their interests. It was a game we played together, one with no objective other than to satisfy their curiosity. You know, real education.

It might seem chaotic, messy, even a little out-of-control (at least through adult-colored glasses), but this is how a play-based, child-driven curriculum works. It's not the kind of thing you can put in a manual or teach to an education student in a classroom. Education is about real kids, real passions, real creativity. It's about the real world, and indeed, that's the only place teachers can learn how to do it.

Corporate types say that "creativity" is the most important business leadership skill for the future, yet all too often they are advocating for schools that seem specifically designed to squelch creativity through standardization of curricula, high stakes testing, data mining, homework, longer hours, more adult-driven rigor . . . Where are they going to find those creative leaders for the future? Seriously? People keep telling me that to rise to the top of a corporation you have to be on the ball, but can't they see that they are working against their own best interests?

Oh wait. Maybe they aren't so ignorant. Corporations are hierarchies. They apparently each only need one leader or perhaps a small leadership team. So that begs the question: what are they hoping to educate the rest of our kids to do? If we shifted our schools to a model of igniting flames instead of just filling empty vessels, the world would be chock-a-block with leaders and then who would sit in all those cubicles?

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fear And Pain



































". . . imagine a stone as big a great house; it hangs and you are under it; if it falls on you, on your head, will it hurt you?"

"A stone as big as a house? Of course it would be fearful."

"I speak not of fear. Will it hurt?"

"A stone as big as a mountain, weighing millions of tons? Of course it wouldn't hurt."

"But really stand there and while it hangs you will fear very much that it will hurt. The most learned man, the greatest doctor, all, all will be very much frightened. Everyone will know that it won't hurt, and everyone will be afraid that it will hurt."

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Possessed 

Parents spend a lot of energy worrying about pain. I know I do, although as my daughter has grown, my concerns have shifted more toward the emotional than physical. When she was little and pricked her finger, I would fuss over her, joining her in her pain. But now that she's a young woman my responses are less empathetic, more sympathetic, eliciting perhaps a grimace and a "That must have hurt" before returning my attentions to my own concerns. Somehow, I suppose, with all the experience she now has with minor pinches and scrapes it doesn't seem like she needs me to travel through the pain with her, if she ever did. I tend these days to spend more of my time under the "stone as big as a great house" anticipating by proxy the pain of rejection, of cruel words, of dreams being dashed.


I love this Dostoyevsky thought experiment because it makes very clear that most of us, most of the time, no matter how well educated, are even more afraid of pain than death. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I assume I'm not alone in having more or less successfully wrestled the horrific thought of my own child's death into a back closet of my mind where it sits like disaster emergency supplies, necessary, occasionally checked on, but with the expectation of never having to open them. That's a harder thing to do with pain, or more precisely, the fear of pain.

A certain amount of this fear is adaptive. Not enough and we take crazy risks, too much and we become paralyzed. But none of us can avoid pain, and indeed there are philosophers who assert that we all experience an equal share throughout our lives no matter how we live. In any event, there is no denying that pain is one of the universal truths about life. The difference is in how we anticipate it and how we recover from it.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could always be rational about pain; we could look at the wasp buzzing over our food and understand that the pain from its stinger would not be so bad after all, a prick really, perhaps raising a round, red welt. Instead we leap from the table, swinging our napkins, knocking over glassware, even the bravest among us dodging our entire giant bodies in fear of this tiny, harmless insect that really has no intention at all of stinging anything. It's fear that does it; anticipation of pain.

If you look very carefully at this photo, right in the center you'll see the strange insect that
 crawled from a tree round that we'd just had delivered to the school. It appeared to be
some sort of hornet, with a long, thick stinger. As insignificant as it looks here it was
fearsome enough in the moment to occupy the full attention of 3 adults for at least
10 minutes as we cautiously tried to figure out what to do with it. We named it the
 "Snohomish County Hornet" (because that's where the tree had been cut). I finally
trapped it in a cup, carried it up the road and released it into some trees.

And take a look at it from a child's perspective, especially one who has never experienced a sting. We might even be laughing as we do it (in fact, more often than not we are), but this is a table full of big, strong adults fleeing a wasp. How fearsome that must make this wasp to a child. How great that pain must be. Often in these circumstances, the adults are laughing while the children's faces are creased in worry.

I know this is an extreme example, a lot of us have genuine phobias about stinging insects (no doubt sourced in large measure from scenes like the one I've described) and do a much better job of hiding our knee-jerk fears behind a curtain of rational calmness in other circumstances. But it's a good thing as parents to constantly examine our knee-jerk fears, to look at them in moments of repose for the truth. We can all, if we let our imaginations go, come up with a catastrophic possibility for everything, but that's a dangerous, damaging exercise for both you and your child. More productive is to be honest about your fear. Where does it genuinely touch reality? Does the intensity of my fear match the actual pain or is my heart irrationally racing over my child who is about to learn the universal lesson of touching the wrong end of a thumb tack?

Pain is inevitable, and in fact good, in that it is one of nature's great teachers. Through diligence and care, I'm sure we can avoid some of it, but we'll never even come close to eliminating it. And fear is often the worst part of pain; it intensifies it, it turns it into a phobia.

There is no magic way to turn off our fears, I'm afraid, especially when it comes to our children. But we can become aware of them, to talk about them, to examine them in the bright light of day. As parents, perhaps the hardest thing is to learn to feel our fears, to put them on our shoulders, and yet still allow our children to live their lives, which includes, magnificently, both love and pain. The alternative is to keep them in their rooms, quietly, alone, where they learn nothing.

I'm still afraid for the pain my teenager might experience each time she goes out into the world; catches the bus to visit a friend, heads downtown to go shopping, leaves for an afternoon at the beach. The world is full of small things she could choke on, pointy bits upon which she could be cut, and pavement upon which she could fall. Even as I write that sentence, I see the silliness of the fears I once had for my child and wonder when the fears I have now will look just as silly.

As parents, our fear of pain is complicated by the fact that it is a fear by proxy. We see our innocent toddler reaching for the rose. We feel a flash of fear on behalf of our child, who will know the pain, but not the fear, at least not this time. And even once your child has learned the truth about thorns, he will never fear them as much as you did, until he has a child of his own.

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