A new friend recently introduced my husband Kris and I to Sandra Dodd, someone I consider to be the ultimate advocate for children and families. Sandra has encouraged us to know our children more deeply. She is teaching us how to open ourselves up to seeing who our children are, instead of trying to make them into who we want them to be.
Sandra Dodd’s writing brought to Kris and my attention that it was he and I who were deciding how our children should spend their time. Without realizing it, we were molding them into who we thought they should be, instead of watching them develop into who they are. We were putting limits on self discovery and joy.
For example, Owen has a new found love of superheroes. Something introduced him to them, and there was no turning back. He wants to read about, talk about and role play superheroes all of the time. Each family member is a character (including Sydney, our two year old), and we play the part. A LOT. He loves everything about the worlds and is having lots of fun.
Though we have gotten pretty tired of playing, Kris and I have made an important observation from playing Super Heroes so very, very often. Owen’s smile has grown immeasurably .
And while part of me is sad to write this, there have been times that his smile is so huge, I do not even recognize it. And it is amazing.
Though we have been trying our best, for Owen’s four years of life we have unintentionally prohibited him from fully expressing himself. We thought superheroes were too violent, and that books are the ultimate tool to ensure a successful child.
Without realizing it, we have been trying to contain the imagination of a spectacular little boy. A profound imagination that should be celebrated.
These limits were always in his best interest, or so we thought. We did not want him to be exposed to things that might be unpleasant, or turn him into a thief or sociopath. We wanted him to experience things that were bright and educational and formed positive connections. These are appropriate and honorable goals for parents, surely.
However, in the process we were sending him the message that his dad and I know what he enjoys better than he does. That the stuff he was interested in was not really all that interesting, and that he should rely on others to choose how his time is spent. We were conditioning him not to trust his own judgement. We were capping and containing who Owen is.
But not anymore.
We have taken the lid off, and are letting him go. We are allowing Owen to explore who he is. We are encouraging him to try the thing he is curious about. We are learning to be interested with him. To find new ways of playing superheroes when we are bored with the old ones.
I am grateful to Sandra Dodd for allowing us to learn this now, before our children are older and have learned from us that there are limitations on how much joy they can feel- that feeling that happy needs to be questioned. I thank her for enlightening us before our children understood that a cap should be placed on their creativity and explorative nature.
Owen is learning a lot from Superheroes. We are having interesting discussions about ethics and values and are having fun finding new ways to make all sorts of costumes and props.
Mostly though, Owen is learning that his mom and dad think he is one cool dude. And that the stuff he is interested in is cool too. It is becoming more evident to Owen that he is important to Kris and I, and can trust us to encourage him to explore what he is curious about.
So really, I do not think the superheroes have anything to do with the size of Owen’s smile. I think it comes from an artificial lid finally being removed. From knowing that his mom and dad love everything about him, and want to get to know who he is.
That huge expression of joy is a result of him sinking into the knowledge that he can trust himself to explore what he wants, knowing that Kris and I are here to help in whatever way we can. And that we are excited to explore this really neat new world with him.
And that it makes him really, really happy.
Thank you for taking the time to read today’s Musing. Pondering Jane’s home is in transition. Please find more musings, activities and tips at http://www.ponderingjane.com, or subscribe down there on the right.