During the Week of the Young Child (April 24 to 28), we celebrate children and all those who care for them. This got me thinking about the many wonderful gifts children bring to our lives every day. Love, joy, and pride quickly come to mind. However, there are three particularly surprising gifts I did not expect to receive before becoming a parent, but am grateful every day my children continue to share them with me.
Have you ever noticed the carefree manner with which children give their time? I find myself continually looking at the clock to make sure our schedules stay on track. Always trying to ensure the “most important” items receive the most time. Watch children. They generously give us any and all of their time. A commodity we adults dole out in careful portions. If we listen, children expertly coach us to slow down and take notice right now.
Just a week ago, my son stopped me while loading him in the car to show me “a bright red bird.” He had noticed a cardinal and it’s unique call in a nearby tree. In my quest to hurry and get home for our “scheduled quality time,” I had missed this opportunity. He was ensuring our time together started immediately. Sometimes, we hurry up to “slow down.” We schedule specific time for our children, planning special activities to enjoy, but children know quality time begins the second we are together. They continuously remind us to make the most of right NOW and forget about later, giving us this simple gift of time.
Having attended college to study child psychology, then teaching young children for many years, I assumed I would easily know “best” regarding parenting… then along came my own children.
I remember the days when I would say, “Children tend to sleep more soundly when they are in their own beds. Healthy sleep habits can be correlated to cognitive, emotional and physical development.” However, currently, my husband and I are planning to upgrade our queen bed because both of our children might join us on any given night! Though we all toss and turn (and my gray hair seems to be multiplying), sending them away in the middle of the night proves impossible for me to do! Yes, there are logical solutions and methods to our problem. Respectfully, please save your suggestions- I’ve read and advised them all. The very scholarly solution our family has come to… a king sized bed.
I remember expecting my first. (Some of you may identify.) My well-meaning plan: organic only, no screen time, no sugar, VERY limited battery-operated toys, somewhat limited plastic toys, no formula, no juice, and no diaper rash (surely, this could be prevented if one were truly vigilant!)… Just thinking back, brings a smile. Yes, I definitely overestimated myself while underestimating the wonderful job of all parents before me.
It is clear parents are simply doing their absolute best to raise the children they are madly in love with. I see parents bargaining with their children, inadvertently rewarding poor behavior, and even missing their own children’s bids for interaction. Haven’t we all done this… at some point or another? Just our children’s way of offering us the gift of compassion, not only for others, but ourselves as well!
There is no doubt parents believe they will be exceptionally proud of their children and most certainly, we ALL are! What proves trickier to navigate, is the sporadic moments of humility (even self-consciousness), only your own child can provide.
The “I want, I want” requests at the store, followed by tears and tantrums. The too loud questions regarding an innocent bystander’s physical characteristics. Your child crying over a thoughtfully given birthday present which seemed to disappoint, or even hearing your own words repeated back to you and stopping you in your tracks!
I have had the pleasure of working at a few Kinderberry Hill parent education seminars. Afterward, parents seek me for advice… I’ve wondered what goes through their mind, when on the rare occasion, these same parents witness me wrestling my own son out of his classroom, yelling at the top of his lungs, “I don’t want to go home!” Do they question our home life? Assume he is spoiled? It is these times, while dodging fists with my hair sticking to the perspiration on my face, I’m tempted to throw them a wink and ask, “Have you read my latest blog?”
Sara Reichstadt is the Education Coordinator for the six NAEYC-accredited Twin Cities Kinderberry Hill Child Development Centers. Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she trained in the Shirley G. Moore Lab School. Sara, who has been with Kinderberry Hill since 1999, has taught in infant, toddler and preschool classrooms as well as serving in management positions.
As Education Coordinator, Sara helps implement curriculum, offers classroom support and conducts teacher trainings. Sara is also a MNCPD (Minnesota Center for Professional Development) registered trainer in the SEEDS of Early Literacy Program. She is passionate about early education and helping children, teachers and families. Sara has two young children and knows firsthand the importance of a quality early education.