We have spoken about letting go, stepping back and allowing the children to explore their own urges. We have encouraged you to promote more time outdoors, unstructured and in nature. We have advocated for children’s right to play, to be free and be active decision makers. We have asked you to view children as capable independent beings. We have shared evidence and knowledge on the benefits of all of this…..we have told you that trust is an essential ingredient in Raw&UnearthedPLAY. But what about you?! While you stand there watching your child/ren swing through the trees and turn your lounge room into a shop/zoo/village and use everything in their reach that isn’t tied down to build their ahhhmazing triple deck pirate ship…..you feel overwhelmed and I bet you can’t help but feel a case of the ‘whats’.
What if- someone spontaneously pops in for a visit and sees my messy house?
What will- parents/owners/visitors think of the messy preschool room?
What will- people think of my mud covered always dirty children?
What happens- when we need to attend something structured?
What if- people think i am just a lazy parent?
What will- the other Educators think of my practice?
What will- happen when they go to school?
What if What if What if!
The only way to get rid of a case of the ‘whats’ is to stop caring what other people may think, and it may also help to stop comparing your parenting/early childhood practice to the heavily edited perfection that streams through your Facebook feed. It’s time to get real. Have fun. Enjoy life. Stop worrying what others may think. Just breathe and remember play is messy, children need space and time to test out ideas and what others think doesn’t matter. If you aim to inspire others instead of conforming to societies ‘ideal perfection’ of perfectly behaved quiet children, you will find that you can lose control with out, losing it.
Let’s rewind a few years when I was at the pool with my then 4 year old daughter and 2 year old son. My 4 year old was having her weekly swimming lesson so naturally my 2 year old had to tag along. If you have met him, you will know he is a bundle of energy with a love of risky play. As we watched I couldn’t help but notice ALL the other 6 attending younger siblings were strapped in prams, glued to iPADs. I was absolutely gobsmacked! These babies we muted, unaware of their surroundings and unable to move. My own 2 year old was of course swimming in the shallows in his clothes, with a massive smile plastered on his face. While admittedly I was judging their choice of the ipad use, the early childhood teacher in me can’t help it, I can guarantee they were all judging and probably labeling me #badmum and my son #uncontrollable. Luckily for my son his happiness and development matters more to me than others’ judgments and I didn’t freak out and try to gain control, I went with it. At the forefront of my practice, I know the benefits of losing control and this enables me to not completely lose it in these type of situations.
While I understand the juggling act of parenting- lets keep it real, I didn’t even have spare clothes with me that day at the pool. I just cannot fathom the benefit of providing a baby with an iPad. They are missing ALL the fun- say clothed swims and nudie car rides home! Sadly, I have noticed more and more babies being offered ipads in prams in various places- it seems to have become the norm. Recently I was asked by a medical receptionist if I thought an iPad was a good Christmas present for her 2 year old grandson. Needless to say my answer was ‘No, buy him something that he can use outdoors!’ These scenarios led me to reflect the reasoning of using ipads for babies. The only thing I could come up with is that it is to keep them quiet, entertained and distracted so they don’t disturb others. Am I wrong? I am wondering when society suddenly decided that children should be seen and not heard again? In some cases not even seen…yes cranky man who told me a cafe was no place for children, I am talking about you! (Insert heated discussion re:children’s rights here, wrong person to approach buddy!)
But what if we changed our case of the ‘whats’ to a case of the ‘ifs’…..
If- we all let go and stopped worrying about others’ opinions?
If- we let children be?
If- we let children experience boredom?
If- we stopped overstimulating our children?
If- we all started to be honest?
If- we all supported each other instead of judging?
If we did all this, we would all be able to let go of our need to control all situations and allow the children to be, without judgment. When I am out and about and I see a child testing out ideas and advocating for their right to play, (sometimes puddles just scream to be jumped in!) There is usually a nervous stressed parent nearby and I love sparking a conversation with them, easing their qualms. Of course it helps that my own children have usually dived head first into the puddle alongside their child. These conversations will spread the word and allow us to not feel judged or lose it when our children push the (tight) boundaries society has created for them. It’s time to loosen those boundaries, let the fun begin!
So here you are standing watching your child/ren swing through the trees and turn your lounge room into a shop/zoo/village and use everything in their reach that isn’t tied down to build their ahhhmazing triple deck pirate ship……you take a deep breath in and smile knowing your child is becoming strong, creative, independent and that their imagination is well and truly alive. You feel satisfied that they will continue to grow and become stronger and be equipped to take on life challenges they are faced with. As you breathe out you relax, you have let go of the need to over control without losing it because you don’t care what others may think. You know childhood is such a small moment of time in the bigger picture. It may take time to adjust, to feel comfortable to fully let go of trying to control. During this time I recommend coffee. Lots of coffee. There isn’t much a double shot espresso can’t fix.