Quite frequently I talk with young moms whose first born is getting older- close to three- and is blossoming into a smart, young child and the parents are worried. Worried that they may not be doing enough to teach their little one, worried that they may be holding her back from achieving her full potential. Worried that their little one may be bored stiff and wasting her time, and worried that she’s learning nothing on a day to day basis. For young parents who see their little baby reach toddlerhood and speak, think and act independently, it’s not surprising that they should want more. After all, the gym classes, play and learn programs, mommy and me time, library story and sharing times and a host of others implore young moms and dads to do more. Sitting at home and watching them grow, a lot of parents feel the need to start teaching their little ones, start them on their journey to excellence in education and push them (gently) ahead of the game. Why, all they would do otherwise is sit at home and waste their time playing!
Unfortunately, today’s super fast world is in a rush to do everything. From miracle grow for our plants to hormone raised full grown chickens in twenty days, to a medically induced quick delivery to sending our kids to school early- every thing has to be raced ahead without thinking about the repercussions. Kids cannot be afforded time and space to be kids because they have to be grown ups. We constantly tell our children to behave themselves- or act like a grown up. We tend to restrict their play and see it as a waste of time. Library story time may be seen as fine for toddlers because of the structured school like atmosphere, but what’s all this talk of free play and creative intelligence? Kids back home are in preschool by the time they are two, unlike my near three year old who is not even potty trained yet!
As parents of little ones we feel the need to be part of their space to such a degree that we may make them claustrophobic. I know parents of almost 10 year olds who won’t let their kids lock the bathroom doors when they use it! I’ve seen parents answer questions for their kids even when they are old enough to answer the questions themselves! Many parents feel the need to plan and execute each day filled with activities for their little ones so they don’t get bored! The concept of unsupervised or unstructured play is removed for fear of “safety”. Even in a sterile sandbox in the patio, parents talk continuously, push toys encouragingly and give ideas simultaneously advising their little ones to “create play”. Creativity cannot be taught, but it can be nurtured or destroyed- and we the parents, pick which one.
One of the blessings of having multiple children is that unsupervised time becomes a fact of life. My kids have spent uncountable hours playing in our backyard by themselves, and this is their creative learning time. In the safety of their own home, they’ve created their space- where they can pretend, play, and be whatever they want to be. I tend not to go into their dug out and respect the fact that an old rug and a lot of other tidbits from inside our house have found a new home out there. They’ve made their special place a home, a clubhouse, “base” for games and a host of other things. Their backyard venue is a space for sibling meetings, a spot for picnic lunches and solitude for a wronged playmate. This special place is a labor of love and cooperation of three siblings over the course of many years. To the discerning eye, it is a waste of time, energy and space but in their eyes it is more than just a hole on the hill! It is “their” hole on the hill – their castle and kingdom.
This unsupervised playtime has led to countless hours of play, creativity and yes- mess! But it has also led to a growth in their creativity, problem solving skills and emotional intelligence. For parents, one of the the hardest things to learn is to let go and give space to our children to grow and become themselves. Perhaps by creating a hole on the hill, my kids have given me a taste of their independence and taught me to loosen the noose. Most of all, it has taught me to give my children their safe space to discover, be in awe and grow on many levels. I’ve realized I don’t have to be around them all the time for them to have fun and learn and I’m not responsible to entertain them all the time. A lot of young moms ask how is it possible to run a home, raise kids and homeschool. Perhaps it is by affording everyone some independence and space that we can take a breather while reflecting on the positives of not being involved in everything all the time.