My five-year old son’s a smart little fellow. IQ smart. We want him to thrive, learn and grow at his own pace and without any artificial boundaries. So, we took him to spend time with a specialist the other day who would evaluate ways we could support him more completely. After the hour she spent with him alone, she called the Hubster and me in to discuss her observations. And as we talked, my son drew pictures. Now, he is a people pleaser and likes to ask for feedback. We generally tell him he’s doing a great job etc. Instead of providing reinforcement though, she did something else. She asked him questions:
“Would you like to add a little more detail?”
“What’s the weather like?”
“Are there any flowers?”
Each time, he excitedly went back to drawing – filling in the picture a little more each time – until he had drawn something far beyond anything Steve and I had seen him do at home. And she remarked that she absolutely loved children at his age because “they are so open… so excited to try… to do more.”
Children ARE so open. They are born to learn, born to love, born to trust. They can sing, can draw, can dance. They want to try, trust they will succeed and always go for more.
And as we age, it becomes harder and harder to stay open to life. We’re hurt badly and don’t want to be hurt again. We fail, are embarrassed and don’t want to try again. The world seems to be against us, and we stop reaching. We let go of certain dreams or settle.
When does it happen? I can’t really say, but I think it starts around the age my son is today. As our kids get a little older and start to go out into the world on their own, we want to protect them and keep them safe. We set boundaries. We say no. NO. NO. NO. We check emails or check in with our Facebook friend, and not with our kids. We’re tired. We tell them:
“Go in the other room.”
“Stop making that racket.”
“Mommy’s busy right now.”
We mean well. Yet, unintentionally we’re sending them messages that they aren’t as important to us as we are to them. After all, a parent is a child’s entire world at this age.
We accidentally teach them that we don’t want to hear their singing or see their art (even if it is scrawled on a wall in crayon), and that they can’t do more. They need to do LESS to please us.
Is that what I want to teach my child? Is that what anyone wants to teach their kids?
At my age, there are still a few brave souls whose hearts, dreams and minds remain open. They still yearn for something greater. Others may tear them down, trash talk them or belittle them. Why? I think it’s because, deep down inside, they long for something that’s hard to pin down. Perhaps it’s the freedom to believe in themselves again, to live life unafraid, unfettered by the minutiae of talk shows, politics and our digital life.
I’m not going to be able to protect my sons from all of life’s pain, but I do want to do everything I can to teach them to stay open. I want to be more like the woman we met with the other day. I want to ask questions and teach them to keep trying and to keep the faith. To remain vulnerable. To not worry about what other people may say to bring them down. To stay hungry for more.
I want to open that door in my life too.
Children will amaze you, if you let them. YOU will amaze you too.