Playing with my boys

Playing with my boys
They keep life interesting :-)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

“What should a 4 year old know?”

I saw this on Facebook.  It was written by a Pre-School Teacher.  Its perfect.

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only three. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.
It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our pre-schoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. 

He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.

She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. 

She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.

He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.

She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvellous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.

That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.

That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.

That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like lego and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.

That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

That happened fast...

It occurred to me today that I no longer have a baby gate at the bottom of our staircase.

The baby bottles have been in the basement almost a year now.

Liam doesn't eat meals in his highchair.  In fact, the only reason it still sits in our kitchen is to use for his time-outs!

I don't carry a diaper bag when we go out.  I toss a couple diapers and a bag of wipes in my bag, its big enough.  I don't need a changing pad, changes of clothes (usually), bibs, burpies, bottles, toys, etc.

I don't carry a spare binky around with me anymore.  Liam only uses it in his crib.

My children can go play in the backyard, hardly supervised, while I'm making dinner.

The infant car seat, bases, and snap and go have been in the basement collecting dust for some time now.

The baby bath tub has been in the basement since Liam was old enough to sit in the tub with Aidan and drowning was no longer a constant fear.

The stroller is an optional accessory most outings.

I don't puree foods anymore.  The kids eat grapes WHOLE.  Cereal is served with milk, at least for Aidan.

Apple picking the other day, Liam could eat an apple whole - skin on and all.

Babies are a lot of work.  Everything you do is that much harder, and takes that much longer.  Its undeniable.

But another thing that's undeniable?  They grow up REALLY FAST!  I don't have babies anymore...I have toddlers.  And while life certainly isn't easy with two little boys to chase, its remarkable how much less complicated everything is once they've grown beyond that baby phase.

Toddlers bring their own sort of trouble ;-)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dear God

There is this cloud of guilt hovering over me that sometimes I notice, sometimes I don't.  Hubs and I have been discussing churches, and trying to pick one to go to together, for years now.  We have differing opinions on certain things that add to the difficulty of settling on a church to go to together (one example - he was baptized when he was an infant, I was baptized when I was 14 years old - our children will decide later what they want to do).  He was raised Catholic, but has not been a practicing Catholic since he was living at home with his family.  I was raised non-denominational Christian.  I went to church or church related activities 3, 4, 5 times a week - my whole life.  I stopped going to church when I was 23/24 years old, but my faith in God, and my relationship with Him has remained ever-present.

Since having children, our "we need to find a church" conversation has become increasingly more common.  I've looked online, I've talked to friends, I've gotten recommendations from friends and ministers, we've visited a Baptist church but just didn't think that was the place for us. 

We're still looking, but in the meantime, we're raising our kids to know God, to love him, and to trust him despite of a lack of "church" in our lives.  We talk about and pray to God everyday.  Before naps and bedtime, we all gather around Aidan's bed and say prayers together.  Generally, its either me or AJ leading the prayer.  We'll ask Aidan to say the prayer sometimes, and he pretty much always fights us on it - he acts embarrassed, like he doesn't know what he's doing. Its not something we push too much on, he's a pretty stubborn child.  But regardless of who does it, prayers are always said, and when its done, there is a chorus of Amens, including my little Liam.   

Today, I overheard my son praying to God on two separate occasions, asking for help with things that were trying him at the time - but not before thanking Him for the day and for everything He's given him.  I can't fully express how this makes me feel.  I think of my church upbringing as a blessing in that it taught me about God, it taught me the Bible, taught me to know the scriptures, to have convictions, morals, a depth of love for God and his creation.  Today, I've been reassured that my children are well on their way.

Proverbs 22:6

King James Version (KJV)
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old,
he will not depart from it.