Are we building our families on the four pillars of “too much”: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too fast? I believe that we are. But I also believe that we don’t mean to be. I know it for a fact, and I’ve seen it many times, that parents can bring fresh inspiration and attention to the flow of family life. – Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne with Lisa Ross, page XI, Introduction
I think the most well-meaning and loving parents can get caught up in this. This year, as many of my readers know, was a difficult one and has been a real wake-up call to me to cut my life, our family’s life, down to the things and the people that I hold most dear, the people and things that nourish us as a family. It is liberating, it is freeing, it is rejuvenating.
I think many parents actually have an easier time with going through material things and getting rid of and simplifying in that area. However, when it comes to “too many choices, too much information and too fast”, it can be more difficult. It also can mean hard choices. One example of “too many choices”, is in activities. Many of the parents I know whose children are involved in lots of activities are in them simply because it sort of creeps up, for one, and for number two, we are so lucky in these times that we live in that there are many good activities! At least, on the surface it can seem that many of these activities are “good”.
However, if we take a closer look, we see the displacement of the family life that “too many” activities cause, and also that many of the activities actually are “too fast” for the age. I posted this link on The Parenting Passageway Facebook page, but here is a good example by a noted orthopedic surgeon in regards to children in competitive sports: http://www.cleveland.com/dman/index.ssf/2013/02/noted_surgeon_dr_james_andrews.html
“Too much information” can also be difficult. In an effort to not be the strict authoritarian parents of the past and in order to be connected to our children, we often provide way too MUCH information about family life, our thought process, the pros and the cons, to children who do not have cause and effect reasoning as of yet. Yet doing all this is certainly not the best way to connect to children under the age of fourteen. Teenagers need more of the thought process, the pros, the cons, the discussion. Doing all of this with children under age fourteen often leads to children who can be very anxious, very involved in the adult affairs of the family and the other adults in their lives, and children who are really being taken out of their childhood years by adult thought processes. I know that is not popular to say, but it is food for thought. How many adult conversations is your child a part of, how many adult conversations are being held whilst your children are awake and hearing all the adult things going on, how anxious is your child? Step back and look at this and really meditate on this.
“Too fast” is also really tough to tease out. I see this a lot in parenting children post – nine year change and the very early teenaged years of ages thirteen and fourteen. Children ages nine through twelve do not yet have cause and effect reasoning. They are still in a stage of beauty in their lives, and therefore are not ready to hear about the very graphic details of things in life that are not so beautiful. You can touch on things such as war and such, for example, but what children of this age are really drawn to are the very heroic actions of great people during these times that were indeed difficult,but yet there was beauty there. I feel the curriculum of the Waldorf School does a wonderful job of bringing in historical events at just the right time. I see mothers all the time who really don’t trust the curriculum and how it is laid out, (which is fine if it is not for you!), but it really is beautiful if you can embrace it and trust it.
Children ages thirteen and fourteen still need strong, strong, boundaries. This is not the time to be so hands-off as parents that the children are too quickly moving toward things we were doing when we were seventeen and eighteen years old. Too fast, too fast!
Simplicity may be easier to attain on the physical level, but striving for this in the areas of choices, information and not bringing in developmental stages too early to our ten through fourteen year olds is also really important and worthy of your time and attention.
Love this. I have been debating what “activities” to involve my 2 1/2 year old daughter in come fall (she will be 3 in December). We in a large metropolitan area, and the choices are truly astounding! We are due with our second baby in August, and that anticipated “brake” on our lives is turning into such a blessing already. We will do homeschool group playgroup at the park one afternoon a week. And that is the ONLY thing on my weekly schedule. We will leave the rest open for playing at home, playing at parks, visiting the library, meeting up with friends, walking on the beach, etc.
Being pregnant in Florida this summer has caused me to carefully plan our schedule to involve lots of indoor time (it is soooooo hot) and pool time; DD is continually anxious, always asking where we are going after breakfast, lunch, downtime time, etc. We don’t have our own pool, and we are not a member of any pool facility that is simply always open and ready for a little visitor, unfortunately. It breaks my heart to hear her so nervous about what is next, but I know of no other way to be outside this summer than in the water without me completely losing all of my composure.
So I am looking forward to our unscheduled fall! After the New Year, we may consider enrolling DD in swim lessons if she seems to really miss swimming; and that is 5 minutes from our house!
So true and yes, so difficult. 🙂 I have found homeschooling that there are so many opportunities out there-all waiting for us to try. We are working hard this year to decrease the number of activities that everyone is doing. I also notice that since we started homeschooling, the children are giving a lot more input into decisions and conversations that maybe they shouldn’t be a part of at all. Finding the time to have “adult” conversations throughout the day is tough when there are always kiddos around. We need to find some new boundaries as we begin this next year.
I am not sure if my question/comment fits the “too fast” paragraph, but I will say it anyway. My kids are almost 10, almost 7 (both this month), and 3. I am also 6 months pregnant. It seems this summer so many parents are sending their kids to sleep away camp at age 9, 10, 11. I have to admit that I am somewhat jealous when I think of how exhausted I am all the time and what it would be like to have a break (one family has sent their 9 year old twins and 11 year old off for a month)! Is this something new (sending kids to sleep away camp at such young ages)? It makes me wonder if my husband and I are too protective.
I also know parents who go away for vacations and leave much younger children home (like 2 years old, 5 years old). Again, we have never left our kids home and gone away without them and I can’t imagine sending my soon to be 10 year old off on his own for a week or a month, but we seem to be in the minority. Are we really doing the right thing by keeping them close to us?? Or are other parents forcing their kids to grow up too fast?
I think the summer camp thing is an awful lot like sports that have filtered down to younger ages…I wonder if there were statistics of the average age of campers thirty years ago if it would be older? I would guess so! I personally think it is too fast, but that certainly is just me. 🙂
Hang in there, Robin and blessings on your pregnancy!
I just wanted to share our experience as one of those parents who sent their 9 year old to a two-week sleep away camp – and this was 10 years ago. At the time it was very much the right “Waldorf” thing to do. With the nine year change many schools would do a some kind of overnight trip. A spell away from family was thought to meet something in this nine year change. As a homeschooler I was looking for something that might be suitable. So at age nine, my oldest went to a Waldorf inspired farm camp on a biodynamic farm. The experience was just wonderful and she went to camp for three more years – the longest stay being 4 weeks.
Personally I would not say this is new or that parents necessarily want their children to grow up too fast but not all camp experiences will be the same. My next daughter did not go on a big away from home trip until she was 14 when she took her first plane ride ever to England and then traveled to France with a youth orchestra. At sixteen she just came home from her second 10 day overseas trip with the same orchestra to Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.
My son went to Boyscout camp last year at age 13 but his father is the Scoutmaster so I was very comfortable knowing his dad would be around, especially at night.. My youngest at age 11 will join his big brother at boy scout camp this year. This is a one week camp.
I do think that it is important to have confidence in both the program and that your child is ready. We have had very good experiences but each was a little different as our children are all very different.
Thanks Donna! Love hearing from you! I think the original post was more about mainstream camps and parents sort of wanting to “get rid” of their children for the summer, but I love hearing about your experience from a Waldorf perspective. How nurturing and wonderful for your children!
What a great reminder, Carrie… Thank you!
“This year, as many of my readers know, was a difficult one and has been a real wake-up call to me to cut my life, our family’s life, down to the things and the people that I hold most dear, the people and things that nourish us as a family. It is liberating, it is freeing, it is rejuvenating.”
This was our family earlier this year, we like to live life in the slow lane, but somehow managed to get caught up in the fast lane…running to play dates, programs, etc. We didn’t last long before we felt like we were just running to and fro and not enjoying life. So we stopped, cold turkey. We removed ourselves from all of it and also some of the friendships that went along with it. It was freeing, and we have no regrets at all. Life has settled down into a pace we enjoy and there is no looking back.
Thanks for sharing.
I love this post Carrie! I especially enjoyed the last part about the curriculum. I just started a dialogue on placement today because of this very reason. We were called to this method, we need to let it play out, trust, realize that there is MUCH more to it than the academic portions.
Hugs and blessings!