On Saturday my 7 year-old daughter had her always homeschooled 9 year-old friend over. I went about my business listening with amusement to the chatter and negotiations involved in a complicated game of “fairies,” complete with multiple changes of fairy outfits.
In the context of the recent NPR reports about the disappearance (and importance of) good old-fashioned imaginative play, the afternoon of overhearing the girls play fairies resonated with me even more than usual. In case you missed it, I wrote about both these reports recently (Imaginative Play and Cognitive Function and “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control”).
Side note: I wonder how many 7 and 9 year-old girls play fairies any more?
I have spent a lot of time in the past week reflecting on my “parenting-style,” such as it is. Here are a few highlights:
1) Obviously I believe that too many electronic toys, games, video games and TV can be harmful. You only have to look at the title of my blog to figure that one out!
2) I have also never felt that I needed to be my children’s activity-director (like Julie on The Love Boat, to bring a TV-related image into this). See: How to get by Without the Electronic Babysitting Box. My mother didn’t spend all day entertaining me, although I certainly would have liked it if she did. There is a very common belief out there that if your children are TV-free, more input and direction are required of the parents. Many feel that a TV-free life means getting fewer things done for yourself, and a commitment to spending lots of time with your child. I have to say that I respectfully disagree with this school of thought. Which leads to…
3) I think there is nothing wrong with children being bored. In fact I believe that out of boredom comes creative play. See: Let Your Kids be Bored.
4) I feel that children today are overscheduled. I can already see that overscheduling is an easy trap to fall into, especially as children get older. I am precariously attempting to maintain a delicate balance between an activity or two, and lots of free time “to be bored.” I feel a bit like a tightrope walker… See: The Six Year-Old and Her Executive Secretary.
True Confession Time:
I absolutely adore my children with all my heart and I love spending (some) time with them. I enjoy the Unplugged Project because we can all sit down together once a week and have some fun. Yet I don’t want to be communing with my kids all day long. I wish I did, but I don’t. I have interests and goals too, and I don’t want to ignore that part of myself just because I am a TV-free, stay-at-home mom.
I am in complete awe and admiration of all those moms (and dads) out there who homeschool. (I expressed my feelings about the first day of school here: The Rapture). I would certainly attempt homeschooling if I was unhappy with the current school situation (a small Montessori school that has been wonderful for us), but honestly I think homeschooling would be hard for me. Have any of you homeschooling parents felt such things, and if so, how did you overcome it?
My friend Wishy and I talk about this subject often. We have come to the conclusion that we must be missing some sort of “mothering gene.” We worry about being Bad Moms, or at the very least, Slacker Moms.
Wishy is a big believer in “Love and Logic” parenting and she has kindly passed along a few of the podcasts. “Love and Logic” calls for a consistent approach to parenting (with which I completely agree, although consistency can be hard to carry out successfully sometimes). In fact in one of the podcasts, they go as far as to say (kind of jokingly, yet kind of not) that it is even OK to be a substandard parent, as long as you are consistently substandard. “Consistently substandard.” I like that!
And now that there has been this recent public revelation of the value of leaving kids alone to just play in creative and imaginary ways without adult involvement, I am beginning to feel like my Consistently Substandard Slacker parenting style might not be so bad after all. (I call it: CSS Parenting).