During my time of moving houses, I have had several very important issues swirling about in my head with no opportunity to write them down until tonight. So, you will be seeing some deeply thought and deeply held posts coming from The Parenting Passageway over the next several days.
One thing that I was thinking about fervently was the essential soul tasks of the small child. If you have been a long-time reader of this blog, I hope over the years I have convinced you of the utmost importance of the physical development of the small child through time and space outside. We think of a very tiny child of ages birth through three as struggling through space over time to achieve being upright, then progressing to speech and from speech flowing into thought. During the Early Years, we also develop our twelve senses, and I often think of such things as the awareness of our bodies (what is us? what is others?). This is done through work and also through imaginative play.
But on the soul level, there is a very important task for this age, which is relating to others, and how the child finds their place within a group. The small child’s experiences with trust of others, belonging with others, finding safety and acceptance of others and within others is all part of this experience. So is the reverence that we often cannot fully see until we stand present with another. I have had the wonderful experience of my almost three year old and his very best friend on earth whom I shall call Little Friend. He and Little Friend adore each other; they run to see each other in the utter thrill that only two best friends can share and laugh in joy. They chase “moonbears” (their code name for grasshoppers) through the grass, wonder at each spider web and bug, and show such deep reverence and awe at each step of Creation. It is amazing to watch and it has shown me the deep ability of the small child to love outside of his own immediate family. For some of you, this is a moment of “Duh!” and for some of you this is a moment of thoughtfulness. If you can think back to your smallest days, where did you feel safe? Where did you feel loved? Where did you feel you belong? Where were you part of a community? Did you feel accepted and loved or on the outside? Why? How would you answer these questions about your own children?
I have received three separate emails this week asking about five or five and a half year olds and finding the balance of being home and the need for friends (or not). I think many homeschoolers would say there is no need for interaction outside the family per se; especially perhaps for those with larger families. But for those with smaller families or children who are close to age six with only a baby perhaps to “play” with, the question remains… And then people tell me they have tried to look for community and nothing that resonates with them is available, so what do they do? Do they do classes? How do they meet people? Is playing with a friend once a month or once every few months enough?
Here are a few of my thoughts on this subject, and you can take what resonates with you. I have seen some five and half year olds, mainly girls, who really long for social interaction outside their families. (Some of the boys seem as if they could care less until the six/seven year change and some boys not even until the nine year change, but certainly some of them crave a special friend as well). So I think the first thing, as always, is to look at your child and observe closely. What is your child telling you? Are they happy, do they need more, do they need balance? Where do they feel loved, and accepted outside of your family? Are they very introverted, very extroverted, how are they with one other friend or with more children about?
I think the thing to think of is not so much the taking of a random class, and certainly not to give up being firmly entrenched in the home, but to think of starting to build community for your children that will serve them well into the future. I suggest a place of worship. I suggest looking for like-minded parents through a homeschooling group, an Attachment Parenting Group, a La Leche League Group, or even something as simple as through the local nature center or a place where you do something you love and can meet other women with children.
Neighborhood children are oft-maligned on homeschooling lists; we have been in our house approximately five days and last night I had five neighborhood children in my backyard in addition to my own children. I love all the children, and I feel especially when we are speaking of tiny children of ages four, five and six, that if we are very present and can be available, we can hold the space in a wonderful way for all the children. I often find having a task at hand, whether that is juicing oranges by hand, kneading bread dough or cutting out holiday cookies, blowing bubbles and playing with sidewalk chalk – something where you can be there, and model and show how to take turns and have good manners – can turn into a fun time for all. Yes, it takes work, but all good things in life take work. Be a light for your neighborhood and reach out. I find so many of the children today are craving something nurturing and will gravitate to your home. Boundaries are important and letting the children know the rules of your home are important, but so is an openness and acceptance. Where do these other children feel loved and accepted and can you contribute your warmth for that in any way?
The hour is late, and it is time to go. Please take what I have written and meditate on how it resonates with you and your family, as always.
Many blessings for the wonderful families that you are,