Let the Children Play! Confessions of Two Rebel Moms
These days, there’s a lot of talk about what we can do as parents and caregivers to keep our children from losing ground while learning remotely, and help them catch up to their respective grade level as we return to some sense of normalcy after over a year of pandemic education. But what if we chose to prioritize education in a different way? These are the confessions of two Second Star moms who’ve forged their own path…
In the late 00s, I worked a traditional full time job while raising my daughter alone, and I didn’t want to spend the precious few hours in the evenings fighting with her over homework. I wanted more for Julianna, more for our time together. Because while my daughter will have many teachers, she only gets one mom. So...
I protected the time I had with my kiddo by doing her homework for her.
Yep, you heard that right, I did Julianna’s homework for most of her elementary years -- what later became known as the years of left-handed math. Almost nightly, you could find me leaning over the counter in my kitchen, writing the answers with my left hand, so the handwriting looked more like my daughter’s.
Frankly, Julianna could have used the math practice; she wasn’t a great math student. Yet, Julianna and I played outdoors, ate ice cream on the porch, and built stick boats to sail on the creek instead of doing math worksheets. The unhurried joy of having time to read a book, curled up on the couch with a wet-headed, freshly-showered child, was worth far more than ten more math problems and the crying, whining, and frustration those problems often created.
Sure, Julianna may not have gone on to study math at Stanford (left-handed math having nothing to do with that decision), but she did learn a different lesson…that time is precious, and we can choose how we spend it. We can make non-traditional and possibly unpopular choices for the sake of our child’s well-being or our relationship with our kids. We know them best. We know what our kids need.
It’s not the right choice for everyone; I know that. But next year when there will be SO much discussion of “getting these kids caught up,” I think I may just have to resurrect the left-handed math ritual for my youngest daughter, Nina, who is still in elementary school. I may do some more left-handed math, so that she has time to play, ride bikes, create Sims families on the computer, and maybe time for one more game of Pretty, Pretty Princess with mom.
Protector of Play
I am the one who will judge you for the rest of time, if you try to take away my child’s playtime. You can call it whatever you want -- play protector, protector of play -- but in the last year, especially, my true calling has been to protect my six-year-old, Rudy’s, playtime. Maybe the pandemic was a gift in the shape of sight, because now I can see so clearly that many of the things our society has established for children don’t work for my family, and I have gained the confidence to just say NO without fear of criticism.
Here are some instances where my fierce, unashamed drive to protect my kid’s free play came to be. The appearance of my Kindergartener being sent home with “busy work,” will now and forever not be accepted by me as her mom. I will always kindly let whatever organization know, that this is not a priority for my family, and know in my heart that when the time comes and Rudy doesn’t have things she must do, her creative self will come alive and find some way to grow. We don’t need this “busy work” to give our lives completion.
The idea that we all need to know the exact same things at the exact same time is ludicrous
Also, if one more person recommends that I sign Rudy up for a virtual class, I may scream. I know we are all scared on some level of our children getting “behind,” but I firmly believe there is no such thing as behind. The idea that we all need to know the exact same things at the exact same time is ludicrous, and accepting that Rudy will learn the things she needs to know in her lifetime is freeing. What she “needs” to know now, is how to use her own creative mind for play, exploration and thereby, learning.
I have made a mom choice, which comes with some unavoidable guilt, but I feel pretty damn good about this one. This choice is to let Rudy build fairy houses in every corner of our back and front yard, watch her come up with bizarre games with the neighbor girls over the fence, practice her breathtaking cheetah gallop over hallway obstacles and allow her to pretend to be an animal trainer with our pets on leashes listening to her every command. I chose these things, instead of the fight, the begging, and the bribing that comes with society’s busy work. And you can choose your own rules too.