This week I’m doing my best to answer some questions presented by a reader (see original post here). Please feel free to share your own experiences; I can only give my perspective. We are all learning!
Today we’re on to: What’s your purpose?
Did you have specific expectations or goals for your son at this age or was it just a slow process of working on things and small concepts; more of a parent directed play? (questions from a reader)
Yes to all of the above.
I think the first question that should be answered is…Why are you interested in structuring activities for your little one? What are you looking to accomplish? Everyone’s purpose is going to be different.
My personal answer would be to help me remain purposeful in my parenting. I’ll be upfront and say that purposeful parenting does not come easy (or natural) for me. I tend to me more geared towards parenting-on-a-whim. But I completely recognize that when I do that, J is not getting my best efforts. His development and learning is full of frustrations and setbacks. When I’m only mindful of the here-an-now, I’m doing whatever is easiest for that moment and not what is really going to help J in the long run. If there’s a problem, I’m really just whitewashing to make the surface appear better instead of focusing on the underlying issue at hand. It’s important enough for me to attempt purposeful parenting, so I try to come up with ways to get the job done. This is why I do structured activities. They help me parent better and therefore help J too.
I believe my role as a parent is to help J learn to eventually handle life on his own. That’s not going to happen if I’m not focused. I want him prepared for what lies ahead. For now it’s preparation for playdates, Sunday school classrooms, family life, and basic safety but that eventually changes to school, peer pressure, work and eventually a wife and family of his own. Each setting requires skills that I can help him learn so his frustrations during the transitions are minimal. I see it as my job to help provide the foundations he’ll need to handle each part of life. My toddler’s needs, for now, are sharing, listening to teachers, and going to the potty without mom dragging him! So we start simple (though honestly, those aren’t such simple things to teach a toddler!!).
I read a quote once that I love: “…our children are not going to always be just ‘our children’ but other people’s husbands and wives and, eventually, someone’s father or mother or teacher or pastor or lunar module mechanic. We reap what we sow.” (Where Roots Grow Deep by Bob Welch).
J doesn’t have to learn it all now. He’s just 2 years old. It will be a SLOW process where he gains more and more over time until he’s ready to live on his own. But if I’m not spending my days providing the right directions and help he needs now, he’s essentially on his own already. I’m leaving him to walk into that Sunday school room completely unaware and unprepared. He now has to learn how to keep content away from his comfort zone (and comfort people, like mom/dad), communicate to other adults, follow instructions, and play well with others on his own. He can learn that way, but there will be a lot more bumps in the road if I leave a 2 year old to figure it all out solo.
How many times have I become frustrated with J because of something, taken a step back later and realized I had expected him to just know something without having ever taught it? I had left him on his own to learn and when he didn’t show proficiency in it (surprise, surprise), I got frustrated and he got punished. If I’m not sowing, he’s not reaping (or he’s reaping very ineffectively which is not ideal). How can I expect to reap benefits in the future? Even more so, how can I expect J to reap benefits in his future and handle life well? But if I am sowing and teaching him what he needs to know, he enters each life situation better prepared to succeed.
This overall purpose is not something I think about day in and day out. Just like everyone else I get easily absorbed in bills, cleaning, work, meals, and life. Like I said, I am naturally prone to random, get-through-the-day parenting. I need organzation to help me fulfill my goal. Structured activities help me keep focused. A focused mom, purposeful in her parenting will be a huge benefit to J.
This means that the type of structured activities we do on a daily basis should bring me back to my overall purpose. If they aren’t, I need to reevaluate and make some changes. It’s a good way to occasionally check myself.
So what’s your purpose for doing structured activities with your little one? I think it’s worth the time to think of one all-encompassing purpose, not a list of detailed goals yet. You might not need the help focusing like I do. Maybe you are wanting to prepare your little one for kindergarten? Maybe you’re officially homeschooling your little one? Maybe you are wanting to help your days run more smoothly? Maybe you want fun one-on-one time with your little one? Something else?
Your answer is going to determine the next step so it’s an important question to consider.
To see the other posts in this series, click here.