I have to admit, there’s a lot of self-doubt going on in this post. Am I just a bad parent? Do other kids sit still and obey because it’s normal? Or perhaps, we are conditioning our children to be far more adult at an earlier age? My kids certainly buck the trend of ‘sit still and be quiet,’ but I often wonder if that just because of the way we parent. Or perhaps, it’s my kids’ personalities. I don’t know. I do know this: kids are expected to be quiet and still at an age where most of them desperately need to get up and move.
Today was an interesting day. I’m currently in a ‘ticked off at the world’ kind of mood after someone made my son upset during a homeschool meetup. An authority figure – a librarian, of all people. And she did twice, in 2 different ways.
The library hosted a Lego building event. They’re using these events to gauge homeschooler interest in the area – they certainly got interest. There were a lot of kids. It’s busy, it’s loud, it’s a difficult sensory experience for my kids.
The librarian put out little tarp looking things and plunked cushions on the floor around the tarps for the kids to sit. The bins of Legos were in the middle so that both sides could reach them. The kids sat around the bins and built various things in a free-play kind of setting that’s great for their imagination and problem solving skills.
My kid did the unthinkable. He played.
My kid and his friend built intricate vehicles. I think the Engineer’s was a fantastical kind of airplane, while hers was a boat. Fun stuff. And kids being kids, they wanted to play with them. Normal, right? No. The librarian told them to keep the Legos on the tarps. No walking around the room with them, no rolling them on the tables, and certainly no rolling them on the floor.
Now, keep in mind, they were behaving. No running or craziness, nothing bad. They weren’t bothering anyone, they weren’t being rude or misbehaving. In fact, I was surprised the Engineer wasn’t going nuts because of the noise level and the mass of people. The amount of kids around the Legos is probably why he wanted to move away, because that’s a trigger for him. I saw no problem with him playing as long as he was careful. It was pretend play. Imagination at work. It was part of being a kid.
Apparently I’m a lax, lazy parent who can’t keep my kid in check. After she loudly admonished him to take the Legos back to the tarp, she turned and looked at me, as if wanting me to enforce her rules (she knew I was his mom. Yay name tags.)
This rule wasn’t stated up front. It was the first I had heard of it, and this was the second Lego session we’ve attended. It was arbitrary, unreasonable, and not age-appropriate to expect them to NOT play with the Legos they built. Unless she physically took the Legos from my kid, she couldn’t enforce it – everyone else was playing too. So I ignored it. Me, the rule follower, ignored her rule. Living dangerously here!
Been there, done that
This isn’t the first situation where we’ve encountered inappropriate expectations. There’s the Destroyer’s class at age 2 where the teacher followed him around taking toys away because he wouldn’t sit still for story time. There’s the Princess’ class where she was exposed to a graphic story of death at the age of 3, triggering massive anxiety. There’s the Princess’ ballet class at age 4, where her teacher expects her to be a little robot and stand still until ordered to move. There’s preschool story time at the library where the kids – some under the age of 1 – were expected to be quiet during a multi-book story session. Sit still and listen!
It’s just wrong, people. It’s wrong. Little kids are loud, messy, silly, bundles of energy. That’s normal. That’s being a kid. Anything else is abnormal and forced. Little kids shouldn’t have to sit still and be quiet for long stretches of time. They physically need to move. Sure, they can learn to behave appropriately in a specific setting, but it’s asking too much for them to act like an adult. Because that’s what adults want – for kids to sit still, be quiet, shut up, and do as they’re told.
Honestly, I blame the school mindset. Kindergarten is the new grade 1. Preschool is the new kindergarten – or grade 1, sometimes. But you know what? 4-year-olds shouldn’t be doing school! It’s bad for them. Learning is good. Learning should be fun, hands-on, and enjoyable. Learning shouldn’t be about frustrated little kids trying to hold a pencil before their muscles even develop.
Kids need to imagine. To dream. To pretend. To play – to physically move their bodies and learn. That’s childhood. We have this idyllic view of childhood, of playing outside with friends and creating imaginary worlds. Of running free, playing house, forts, and whatever story they come up with. No where in this view of childhood is there a silent child sitting at a table doing worksheets. Yet that’s exactly what we demand of them.
The special needs thing
I do need to point out that the librarian didn’t know why my son needed to move. It wasn’t just about playing, it was a sensory need.
She couldn’t have possibly known that my son has valid medical reasons for needing to move away from the kids. She couldn’t have known that he needed accommodations – because he doesn’t wear a label screaming “SPECIAL NEEDS” plastered on his shirt. No, as always, he’s judged for “bad” behavior. And I’m judged for “bad” parenting. Of course, I already failed that test, because I was stuck physically restraining a meltdown toddler when we first arrived. Bad mommy. Make your kid behave.
I truly didn’t care. She had no idea what it’s like living with special needs. And I’m super proud of the Engineer – he managed a difficult social setting in an enclosed space with multiple triggers. Parenting win!
The second instance was actually worse, and it’s probably coloring my perception of the Lego thing. We brought some watercolor feather-shaped bookmarks to abandon for others to find, and the Engineer mentioned it to her. I have no idea exactly what he said or what she heard, but she told him if she found any, she would immediately throw them in the trash. He came to me in tears over it.
We abandoned them anyway, and I hope she doesn’t truly throw them away. Because that would be horrible and cruel.