Friday, August 15, 2008

The Magic of Childhoods Past

During most of the summer I've been doing my blogging during Emily's nap, which is usually 2.5 to 3 hours. Yeah. Nice. The boys never napped this well. Don likes to have couple time in the evenings, during his first-shift summer months, so after-bedtime blogging had to go. Though since he starts second shift on Monday, this will be my last naptime entry. Homeschooling will take precedence, at least until Christmas break.

The boys, particularly Daniel, struggled with me being in the bedroom (where the computer is) for this long, at the beginning. I was interrupted more times than I can count, and each time my blood boiled just a little bit more. Far from relaxing, it quickly became one of the most stressful parts of the day.

I remembered this stress from earlier parenting years. When the boys were younger, and we lived in CA., I worked from home as a part-time home-schooling facilitator. I had to meet with each homeschooling family once a month, but I was able to work those meetings into just four days a month, by scheduling them back to back, one day a week. Toward the end, I also had to teach a couple of enrichment classes. A mature and fun-loving college student came to our home to watch the boys on the days I was on campus. She was a wonderful blessing to us.

I rushed home to nurse Timmy at lunchtime, and then rushed back to the Charter School campus to do another 3 to 4 hours of meetings. The rest of the job entailed e-mail contact with parents, and the process of plowing through and approving their sample work and monthly lesson plans. It was a hectic life, and when I fell pregnant in 2005, it became clear that to continue to work from home with a third child coming, would lead to an eventual nervous breakdown. So, we planned this move, and continued with the plans even though I miscarried at ten weeks gestation. Our house sold in just two weeks, so really, there was no turning back. It was all clearly a God thing, in the way it came together.

This summer, I've been merely practicing a new trade for an hour or two, and felt some of that same stress. Makes me REALLY appreciate the inner strength of freelance women who write for income, while keeping the children home. I don't do well when pulled in different directions to this extent, but I know some of the stress is due to guilt. I was fighting the feeling that I should be spending quality time with the boys, during Emily's nap. But there has definitely been an interesting silver lining.

Gradually, the boys began to leave me alone for longer and longer segments. They would get so involved in their Playdoh creations, or some make-believe scenario, that they would forget to come and bug me. Nowadays, I see them only once or twice during my "writing break".

During the last several entries, they've been playing school. I mean elaborate school. Daniel concocted a "schedule", involving Playdoh, Lincoln Logs or Legos, drawing, recess, handwashing, and snack. I'm sure he varied it, but there always seemed to be a plan. They even lined up in the bathroom to wash their hands before snacktime - a practice Daniel obviously remembered from his preschool year.

Now, instead of feeling guilt, I see how very valuable this segment of their summer has been. They had to do some maturing to keep themselves occupied for this length of time. Had I not embarked on this "writing break" endeavor, they wouldn't have been forced to challenge their attention spans, their problem-solving abilities, their cooperation skills, or their imaginations, to this same extent.

It has made me think of how things must have been when our grandmothers were raising their children. Without modern conveniences (dishwashers, dryers, microwaves, etc.) they spent MUCH more time doing chores. Their children learned from the earliest ages how to occupy themselves. I'm willing to bet they had wonderful imaginations, and very few toys, and of course no TV. The natural world was probably a much bigger part of their lives, without any media to distract them. I know my mother and her many siblings, who all grew up on a local lake here, spent many hours outside, swimming in the summer, sledding and ice skating in the winter, and jumping in leaves in the fall.

Sure, they probably didn't know their letters or sounds or shapes or colors very early. They probably didn't read in kindergarten either. But they had childhoods chock full of wonderful memories, and their imaginations and problem-solving capabilities were naturally ripe. What has happened to childhood? Why the rush these days? There was so much value in the way it used to be. So much natural learning took place. Kids got enough exercise, effortlessly. I'm willing to bet their attention spans were mature when they entered school, since they had spent so many hours entertaining themselves. There were probably far fewer "hyperactive" kids.

Why do we feel guilty, as parents nowadays, when our children have to fend for themselves for a couple of hours? This summer writing experience has taught me valuable lessons. I believe in my boys to a greater extent. I trust them more, admire them more. They are standing taller, even in their own eyes.

We can't go back in time, of course. But we can and should pull wisdom from our grandmothers' era, and remember what childhood is supposed to be like. We might all ask ourselves, in our own little worlds, what things have replaced the magic of childhoods past.

1 comment:

Steph said...

Great post! I totally agree - kids need more time to just play. I hate the guilt thing - I know it well. I do have to work on curtailing TV and computer time for the kids, though.