People Are People

Get ready to have your mind blown…

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

Did you know that your kids are people?  Even your newborn is a person!  A whole entire person, albeit a small one, with a whole entire range of emotions and ideas!

Do you know how I know?  I mean besides all of that science mumbo-jumbo that gets thrown around (read Dr. John Medina).  I know because I was once a child.  Crazy.  I know.  I consider myself lucky to have very vivid memories going all the way back to toddlerhood.  If for no other reason than I can pull from them in order to help myself understand children.

The most prominent thing for me is my “inner voice”, you know, the thoughts you think, and the “voice” that narrates them.  I do a lot of thinking.  I remember doing a lot of thinking as a child.  Here’s the thing, that “voice” is the exact same voice I “heard” when I was an itty bitty.  That voice HAS NOT CHANGED in the least.  You know what this tells me?  It tells me that I’ve always been me.  That children are always the same person.  Of course, as grown-ups we know many of the changes that lie ahead, but kids don’t.  They can’t, because they learn through experience.  And frankly, how much experience can a three year-old have?

On my fourth birthday (which is Christmas Day, go me!) I got a baby buggy, like an old-school pram thingy.  I loved it!  I remember thinking something along the lines of: WHOA!  THIS SHIT IS TIGHT, YO!  I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.  Anyway, bonus for me, not only did I have a brand new, sweet-ass ride for my dolls… I.  WAS.  FOUR!  FOUR!!!  Come on people, go there with me.  HOLY SHIT!  I’M FUCKING FOUR YEARS OLD!  This is as old as I’ve EVER been!  I am CLEARLY fully grown, and I’m ready to take on the world!  Look out, bitchez!  I’m four, and I’m coming for you!

Do you remember being four?  Try.  Try to remember how you felt.  Hell, try to remember how you felt on any day when you were little.

Yes, having your birthday on Christmas blows.  But at least no one was concerned about safety back then, and I got to walk my happy, four-year-old ass two blocks down the street to my “Gramma Charlie’s” house (where we had family gatherings), IN the snow… WITH my awesome baby buggy… ALL BY MYSELF!  Actually, I walked it alone before I was four, and in all kinds of weather.  But GOD DAMN IT!  Today I’m FOUR!  FUCK YEAH!

Seriously, I tear-up remembering how happy I was to be four.  I wore THE BIGGEST smile while I was walking, all the while, absolutely BURSTING!  When I got to Gramma Charlie’s with my buggy, I announced to everyone, “I’M FOUR!”  And the grown-ups were all like, “that’s great”, “happy birthday”, and shit.  Obviously they had never been four, because this shit was off the chizz-ain!

The point here is that no matter how young, in your child’s mind, they are always the same person.  Think of who you are now, and then think about how you like to be treated.  That is all your children want…  To be treated like a person whose feelings matter, and whose thoughts are validated, and to be respected as an individual.  Trying to control children, dismissing them, thinking that this time while they’re little is just an obstacle to a time when they can do everything for themselves and your life will be so much easier – is a recipe for disaster.  This time DOES matter.  Every fucking day matters.  Not all people have memories going back so far, but even if you don’t remember being little… it still happened.  And it shaped who you are right this very minute.

Your kids are people, treat them as such.

And PS, now that you’re a parent, your life will never be easy again.  I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but it’s true.  “Newborn” is as easy as it gets.  For the rest of your life you will lose sleep over, have your heart broken by, and worry about the safety of your children.  At least newborns can’t drive, say they hate you, or marry a total asshole.

 

Social Life

These days people are super worried about their child’s social life.  I once had a mom who didn’t want her two year-old to hang out with any children younger than her, because she felt it would stifle her child’s development.  Parents are way over scheduling their kids for fear they won’t have any social skills.  This is stupid, so stop it.  painting

What did you do when you were a child?  I’ll tell you what I did before I went to school at the age of four.  Nothing.  That’s right, nothing.  My grandparents were my babysitters, and they had a fenced-in yard.  I played outside, mostly by myself, and sometimes with the neighbor girl who was three years older than me.  She liked to play “school”, which might have been fun, except she went to a catholic school…in the ’70s…need I say more?  So on the days that I would play with her, we played “school”, she was the teacher, and I would have to call her “Sister something-or-other.”  Class consisted of me sitting and listening to her while she sang, and periodically being hit with a wooden spoon.

Fuck that noise!  What the hell!?!  There must not have been any parents around, because I sure don’t remember any!

So, with all of my experience playing by myself, or with my grandma, or playing “school” with the neighbor girl, I went off to real school.  Guess what?  I know your mind is about to be blown right now, I WAS FINE.  I was a little shy at first, but it wasn’t traumatic, and my social skills weren’t lacking at all.  So how in the hell did I learn those social skills without Gymboree, and soccer, and dance class, and what-the-hell-ever else is out there?  I’ll tell you how.  I was a human being existing in a society.

I realize that I’m talking about only one child here, and that child is myself.  I also realize that anecdotes aren’t evidence, but just humor me for a minute…

Do you take your child with you to places like the grocery store?  Do your children attend family gatherings from time to time?  Do they ever go anywhere at all?  If so, your child is learning social skills.  Hopefully you are using positive guidance to help them along, but every interaction with any other human being whatsoever is socializing.  When your child sees you interact with other people, they learn social skills.  When your toddler rides the bus with you, because you live in a large city where mass transit is necessary, you’re teaching your child how to behave on the bus.  To children, everything is a learning experience.

For those of you who are put out by a child on a bus, or a plane, or anywhere else, go fuck yourself.  You need to realize that if a child is within earshot, or visible, they are learning social skills based on either your piss-poor attitude, OR your kindness and respect of other humans.  Pop quiz!  Which one do you think turns out better members of society?

The point is that every interaction with other humans shows children how they should interact.  So to the public, I implore you, be on your best behavior when children are around.  Say, “excuse me”, “please”, and “thank you.”

Let’s come back to all of the fun classes, early preschool, and playdates for which we schedule infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours…  Totally unnecessary.  Yep.  Unnecessary.  Don’t get me wrong, those things are fun if you have the means, just not necessary for your child’s development of social skills.  And in moderation please!  No one needs to be scheduled every day of the week.  There is a lot for your two year-old to learn just by sitting and cutting up pieces of paper all by themselves.  Digging in the mud is hours of entertainment.  Let them be kids!

Now let’s say you agree with me, and opt out of all of the mommy-and-me crap.  How can you help bolster your child’s social skills?  Let them order for themselves at restaurants.  Let them hand the money or credit card to the cashier at the store.  Encourage them to ask another child to play at the park.  Let them speak for themselves when someone asks them a question.  Tell them what is appropriate and/or expected of them in different environments, like church, the library, or a Metallica concert.

There is absolutely no reason that a typically developing child needs you to sign them up for classes, and arrange playdates, all the time, everyday.  There is no prescribed amount of time they should spend participating in god-knows-what.  And there’s absolutely nothing that says children who play with older children have an advantage in school, or that playing with younger children delays development (just to reiterate for that mom in case she reads this, it’s fucking stupid).

Do your best to model appropriate behavior, and let your kids be kids.

One last thing, if you notice that your child is becoming mean and obnoxious, or exhibiting any other behaviors that you consider unsavory, before you read them the Riot Act, take a good, long look in the mirror.  Chances are, they learned it from you.  Yeah, you.

Preschool Entrance Exams

Let’s talk about the hell that is “getting in to preschool.”  This will be short, because it’s very simple really.

If you’re in a big city, chances are every preschool has a years-long waiting list.  Even my center has a waiting list, and we’re in the middle of nowhere.  Just so you know, we are first come/first served, but I would LOVE to switch to the most common form of preschool entrance…the interview!  Oh but let me tell you why…

It’s not that I want to “test” children…it’s not that ANY center wants to “test” children…they want to test YOU.  The parents.  They want to know what kind of wacked-out family they’re enrolling.

Parents, no one is “interviewing” your toddler.  They’re interviewing YOU.  If you come across as high-maintenance, kiss your chances good-bye.  If you display little to no interest in helping with school outings, fundraisers, etc., you’re not getting in.  If you seem controlling, uptight, or otherwise TOO interested, sorry about your luck.  Oh how I would LOVE to hand-pick my families…

My advice?  First, don’t sweat it.  Secondly, keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts”:

Don’t:

  • Grill the director, the director will give you any and all pertinent information without being interrogated like a criminal
  • Make a point to mention that you used to be a teacher/nanny/childcare worker, as if that makes you special, it comes across as distrust
  • Ask questions that you don’t understand because someone told you to “ask…blah, blah, blah”
  • Throw out one million “what if…?” scenarios, everybody hates that shit, what if a spaceship crashed into the building?
  • Tell us your child is “advanced” and should be with an older age group, “advanced” doesn’t mean shit to licensing and accreditation, besides EVERYONE thinks their child is “advanced”
  • Think your child is “advanced”
  • Ask a “trick question”, we will just think you’re an idiot
  • Send someone else to accompany your child for the interview

Do:

  • Have a sense of humor
  • Know a little something about Developmentally Appropriate Practice
  • Mention if your child has any special needs, this is NOT a big deal for a center that is high-quality, and employs qualified people
  • Know that there is likely nothing these teachers haven’t seen before, telling us your child will cry when you drop-off is like telling us the sun is hot
  • Understand that you are talking to experts who have been to college, who have years and years of experience, who are often specialists, don’t insult them by asking if they know how to put the spill valve in a sippy cup
  • Know that any program worth it’s salt has a policy in place for every-fucking-thing, and they will all be explained to you upon enrollment, they will all be stated in multiple places in your enrollment packet
  • Get the proper paperwork in at the proper time

A “lottery” system isn’t much better, truth be told, but hey, what are you gonna do?  You’re at the mercy of the school administration.  Just be nice and friendly, and know that your child is good enough for any program.  No need to “cram” ABCs and 123s before the interview.  Early childhood professionals know that development is not linear anyway, so that would be pointless.  Besides, our job is to teach.  What the fuck is the point if they’re already know everything?

One last thing, there are ABSOLUTELY NO prerequisites for preschool.  Children DO NOT need to be potty-trained to attend a high-quality program.  If a center tells you otherwise, they’re lazy and full of shit.  Walk away.  Also,there is NO evidence showing that young children who develop earlier in certain areas (language, literacy, social, etc.) retain any advantage whatsoever after first or second grade.  So lighten up, let your kids be kids.  Your child does not need to be able to read, write, count, line up, pay attention, sit still, or be quiet to attend a developmentally appropriate program.  Period.

The same goes for Kindergarten (though that may be a separate post), the only requisite for Kindergarten is that your child be five years old…even if they turned five the day before the cut-off.  If Kindergarten teachers don’t want to teach five year-olds, they should teach first grade.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which comes from one of Lisa Murphy’s books: “Sitting still and being quiet is not a marketable job skill.”  Damn straight!  Smoke on your pipe, and put that in!  (See what I did there?  A little West Side Story for you show tune fans.)