03 June 2010

Play-Skool - It's Work Too

I often think that it's a damn shame that we don't really seem to view children as actual people. Usually, these thoughts come when I see light to nearly non-existent sentences for parents found guilty of physical abuse or pedophiles found guilty of repeat offenses. It's easy to see it in those cases - light sentences for those who assault other "almost-but-not-yet-quite-people" just smacks of a certain level of de-humanization to me.

And I realized last night that on some level, no matter how much we may value our smallest of humans and their very humanity, even the best intended and most loving parents do it too. It was my mini-epiphany for the night when, after ensuring that A was snug in bed, I took a moment to breathe and revel in the silence and reflect on the evening to that point.

She was quiet, as she often is for a while, on the car ride home. Sometimes, when I ask about her day, she just sticks her thumb in her mouth and gives me The Look which is when I leave her alone. But yesterday, we got home early

and actually had time to relax as M had to leave almost immediately for a work related, two-day evening course.

A and I snuggled and then played a rousing game of "FREEZE!" which she had apparently learned that day, but shortly after, sort of just...wandered off.

So, I started cleaning a bit and cooking a bit and after a while, peeked in to see her sitting on the couch, playing with her horrible singing teapot. When I asked if she wanted to help me cook (an activity she normally loves) or if I could play with her, she said, "No, Monny. I play teapots." Ooooo-kay then.

I felt bad because I was feeling like I was focusing too much on the house and Things That Needed Doing and not enough on her, but she didn't want my focus.

So last night, as I reflected on this, I realized that she has a really, really busy day in school. She's learned so much - a 26 months, she knows all of her colors and tints and shades; she can count to 10; she's adamant about doing for herself and usually, she does it well. Her teachers tell me that even though she counts among the youngest in her class, she's actually the easiest to understand and her verbal skills are at the 3 - 4 year old level, not the 2-year old tier. She spends her days playing, learning, absorbing and surrounded by 13 other shrieking children.

And I'll be damned if that's not some seriously hard work. When I think about what she does, I get tired immediately. The physical, developmental and emotional changes that come so fast and so furiously at this age, coupled with the activities that are jam packed in to one typical day at school and the amount of pure learning she's doing...it's work. It may be a lot more fun than what we adults call work, but it is hard work for our kids too.

By discounting that, by not seeing that their job can make them tired and cranky too, we're not giving them credit as humans. We're really not.  So what if their job is to play and learn while doing so? They do it a hell of a lot better than we could as adults, but you know, at the end of the day, I like to be alone and have my personal space and time to putter to do what needs doing too.

On my Needs Doing List, I have things like: Tidy play room, wash dishes, make dinner, post blog updates, network, do work from home. (For the record, I enjoy cleaning when I don't feel rushed - it gives me time to think and occupies my hands while I'm doing it. It can be relaxing when I'm in the right frame of mind and it's the activity I turn to when no other option presents itself.)

On hers, she has: Play Teapots quietly for an hour, draw at my own table in the sun, lay on the couch and listen to Tad sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" over and over again. These are the things that she enjoys and seem to allow her to decompress.

I have to remember that more often. Just because she comes to just past my knees doesn't make her any less a normal human being, tired after her long day at work too. Respect that space and poke in once in a while to see that she's still quiet and safe.

School and play. Work or no? Do you respect your kids' needs for their decompression time too?


Anonymous said...

When my kids first started preschool, it was like pulling teeth to get them to tell me anything about their day. I had to be satisifed with one-word answers when I asked them what they had for lunch and stuff like that. Clearly the school scene was complex, but they weren't sure how to verbalize it. Now, 9 months later, they talk a little more about it, but not much. This was an adjustment for me, because previously, I pretty much knew every time my kid hiccoughed.

I've always believed in giving kids space when they need it. But, being an adoptive mom, I had to initiate interaction more when they were younger, because they didn't automatically see me as their "go-to" person otherwise. Now, I love that they can verbalize when they do and don't want me in their emotional space. (Of course, a lot of it is drama.)

Verbal ability is such a blessing. My kids were mostly quiet at 2. There were various good reasons for that, and now, a year later, they are the biggest blabbermouths. I'm not sure how much they talk at school, though. I think they save most of their "big questions and observations" for me. But anyhoo, being good communicators means having a lot fewer frustrations, which is nice for everyone. My kids will quietly say "I'm angry at you because ___," versus acting out. I'll take it. - SKL

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