domingo, 30 de noviembre de 2014

Kids Acting Up

When the boys were babies, a couple of times I dreamt they did things they were not supposed to do, because they were too young. One night I dreamt Dave was talking as a grown person when he was barely six months old. Another night I had visions of Alex walking when he was also too young to do so. I interpreted such dreams as a fear of mine for them to grow up too fast. I believe that some children are pushed too much too early to grow up or to do things they are naturally not ready to do.

I have always tried to let their nature guide me, rather than listen to what other people think we should be doing with our children. That's why they breastfed until they themselves said 'no more' (5 years in Alex's case), that's why we still co-sleep, and that's why I've never forced them to do anything they didn't want to do. In most cases, they've reached milestones a lot later than other kids their age. For example, Dave learned to swim at 7, but in only one year and no swimming lessons at all, he swims and dives just like any other kid his age. They never played with Nintendos DX or computers because they had no interest. I didn't buy them a tablet until they asked for one. They're pretty tech savvy now. They are excellent at games like Minecraft and Terraria. They've made lots of friends thanks to that. In fact, if they ever see a kid playing on his tablet, they waste no time in striking up a conversation, exchanging tips and useful information. They still don't read alone, but that doesn't worry me in the least, because they love books, while many kids their age have already learned to hate them. They have total autonomy over their own bodies and what they want to do with their lives. I ask permission to cut their hair, and if they say no, no it is. They decide when they want to have showers and what to wear, too.

When it comes to do things out in the world, I've always exposed them to lots of experiences. As they grow older I see they are more open to new things and they're even embracing some. A couple of months ago I came across a drama course for homeschoolers. I couldn't explain why, but I had the sudden intuition that Dave and Alex would love it. Nevertheless, I registered them as casuals on the first day and told the organiser that it would be up to the kids to commit for the whole course or not. That was fine, the kids were even free to attend without participating, and that was another thing I loved about it. Alex was a bit timid on the first day, as were some other kids, especially the girls. Dave, on the other hand, was out there from the moment go, raising his arm even when he didn't know what he would be asked to do. Mar also joined the class on that first day. The class lasted two and a half hours (with a break for lunch), and was carried out partly inside the performing arts centre and partly out in the yard. I asked them if they wanted to go back the following week. The boys said yes. Mar said she had enjoyed it but she didn't want to do it again because it embarrassed her to act in front of other people. So, from then on she sat with me while week after week we watched the boys perform little plays and games. They both loved it.

It has been an amazing experience for me too. On the second day they were asked to form groups of four and invent a play in which one was a monkey, another an old lady, another a boy, and the fourth a skunk. Alex played the role of the monkey. They acted on a stage in the open air. Some parents watched seated on benches. I sat or lay on the grass. I was blown away by Alex's performance. I was as impressed by the skill with which all those children who've never been to school worked together without much adult intervention, came up with a story, and played it out for everyone to see. I was flushed with pride for all of them. I guess that's what most parents feel every day when their children get good grades or win championships. That doesn't make me proud, but everyone's different. Because I don't test the children, because I'm not constantly checking what new knowledge they've acquired, it actually came as a surprise to me that they might have an acting streak in them. It was a pleasant surprise, similar to the one I get when I sit down to write and at the end I say to myself: I didn't even know I had all this in me.

Three or four weeks into the course, one day Dave said, 'I want to do gymnastics.' I was so surprised that I asked him if he was sure. Last time he asked me to register him for anything remotely structured was when he was 3 and he wanted to play soccer. He was not admitted for being too young. Since then he's only accepted free play. It's always been me who suggested basketball, tennis, soccer, piano lessons... anything they want. Mar has been doing gymnastics since she was 6, and when she came to Australia, she herself googled and found a place where she could continue her training. The boys and I took her every week. I told them they could join a class too. They didn't want to, but they loved going to the gym because they made a friend there, a boy their age who did do gymnastics. Somebody had recently told me, 'You should really push them to do soccer next year. Every kid starts crying, kicking and screaming for his mummy, but after a couple of sessions, they love it.' Once again, I said I won't do it. And I refuse to believe that there aren't more parents out there who, like me, think that the ends don't justify the means. Pushing is actually rude, if you ask me. My kids, at least, hate to be pushed. I do too, therefore I don't do it.

We went on a trip, so Dave couldn't start gymnastics straight away. Two weeks went by before he could join the class. During that time, we all asked him if he still wanted to do it. He said yes, in fact, he couldn't wait to start. When his first day finally arrived, I watched him, astonished. He couldn't do all the things the other boys did, but he didn't give up. For one whole hour he ran, did sit ups, abs, summersaults, flips, bars... and all sorts of exercises he hadn't done before. He had breaks to drink water and he told us, 'It's hard work, but I love it!' The following week he loved it quite as much or even more, as it happened with the drama class. He wants to continue next year, and I think he will be doing more activities like this. He is ready to now. Alex is still not ready. Funny enough, he has always seemed more athletic to all of us, but he still doesn't want to commit to anything.

I am so happy that I always listen to my children and not to other people, although I knew this would happen, and it's going to happen with everything else. There will continue to be no pressure from me for them to learn anything. They will learn whatever they have interest in learning, which will be pretty much everything precisely because there is no pressure.