In my Parent /Tot classes and my consulting work, I find the most commonly expressed question is: “Why won’t my child play by himself? He needs me to amuse him all the time. I am exhausted!” As I listen to these parents, I see that they are devoted parents who have read everything they can possibly read about parenting and trying desperately to apply ALL of it! They are usually mothers who have given up a meaningful career to stay at home and raise their children, and feel they need to raise children FULL TIME in order to justify their being home with them. They carry their child around a good portion of the time and interact with the child every waking minute.
The young child is a being of will (as you know), a huge sense organ, who explores the work, tasting, touching, smelling, seeing, hearing everything. This exploration is crucial to her development, and must not be interfered with by constant distraction and pressure to learn abstract material. Through imitation she must make sense of the world in the microcosm of home.
Since the child learns by imitation, the role of the parent (teacher) is very important. The parent is balance and serene, active but calm, speaking little, purposeful in doing her own work: washing dishes, cooking, baking, laundry, sewing, gardening, painting, reading. If appropriate, the parent might sing or hum while working. The children may imitate, help, or make use of ‘leftover’ materials. A child wants to imitate, so once she has watched an activity, no explanation is needed, she will want to do it to the best of her age and ability.
In less materialistic cultures and in our grandparent’s day, parents must work most of the time on procuring the basics. In those cultures the child naturally gets to see those activities. As modern parents, we need to go back to that way of thinking. In so doing, we will get in touch with ourselves, the sources of our food, clothing, and shelter, and perhaps discover an old art or craft form which really inspires us.
A stay at home parent or a working parent truly is not the issue. You can be confident doing either or. Giving the child the gift of being home with her is demonstrated by being fully present in your work when you are home, and while the child is doing her work. By caring for your home in daily life activities, you are departing to the child the skills and the know-how to live. Not to mention, liberating yourself and the child from dependency.
Your child can give you the gift of life of your own pursuits, the wonders of which you wouldn’t have dreamed in your wildest dreams! Accept that gift and “Get a life!”
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