Charles was too scared to go into the dark garage this morning to get into the car. He had a nightmare last night, the details of which are unclear, but must involve a monster of some sort.
“Remember when I saw a giant green monster upstairs and it was scary, mommy?” (“Remember…” is how he starts every sentence these days.)
While Charles almost-three-year-old brain is busy grappling with what he saw in his dreams and the concepts of “imagination” and “not real” (just think about how tough that would be to understand if you just started dreaming for the first time), Tony and I have found ourselves in many, many, many conversations lately on subjects that are much scarier in reality. I think that’s something that must happen to everyone as a parent, the gradual realization that as your children grow, so must your role as parent, and lo! there are many more things to worry about than just nutrition and playtime and sleep schedules and growth charts.
I recently read this article on empathy and reading, turning my ambition to read novels with my kids (Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, etc) as they get older into a true goal. Can’t you just see it? The whole family snuggled on the couch or in bed, reading a chapter or two or three a night in some of the most fantastic books every written for children, talking about the feelings the main character has and the situations with which he is faced and how he deals with them? Idyllic, certainly, but not unreasonable if you make it a priority to read with your kids throughout their kid years (it probably is unreasonable to expect this to go on in high school).
Then, there is the concept of mixed dominance and what it means and how to spot it and what to do about it. This is something that was just brought to my attention that I’m glad I heard and investigated because awareness of it now, fixing it early if it manifests in Charles or Jamie could save us a lot of heartache down the road.
Do you eat dinner together? We do, and I now know that it is something that we can never, ever give up, even when things get crazy busy. After all, kids who eat dinner en famille are more secure and therefore perform better in school, are happier, and more successful, etc, etc, good things.
The schools in our area have stopped teaching cursive, and I understand their position. In this age of technology, papers will be typed and submitted via email by the time a kid gets to middle school, so the resources to teach cursive writing are better spent elsewhere. But what about the cognitive function that cursive supports? I’ve also heard evidence that learning cursive can help with visual-cognitive development and stave off certain learning disabilities. So, that settles it, I’m going to teach the boys cursive; it’s a huge undertaking, I’m well aware.
Then, there are the other monsters in our lives: the sex offenders, the drunk drivers, the gangs, the kids who “aren’t very nice,” as Charles puts it whenever someone pushes him on the playground or acts out violently (there are lots of kids like this – fortunately, Charles doesn’t act out in that way yet. I worry that the example from other kids might rub off on him, however).
We have a lot to deal with as parents. I have many goals for myself as a parent and many goals for my kids: to teach them well, to equip them for life, to make sure they have the best chance of success, to help them become independent and self-sufficient, to help them become good citizens of our world. What this will mean for me and for Tony is being extremely involved in our children’s lives and arming ourselves with knowledge to fill in the gaps where the schools can’t go. It means teaching cursive, and looking for mixed dominance, and reading together, and cooking together, and eating together, and playing together, and keeping the TV off, and essentially committing to home-school my kids in addition to their public school education.
Charles cried when I dropped him off at preschool today. He is still scared of the giant green monster, even though I told him that it was imaginary and that Buster would bark and protect us from monsters, and mommy and daddy are always available for hugs to vanquish monsters, too. I can keep the TV off at home, but I can’t control what the other kids say to him, and I think some of them are either better equipped to talk about scary things or they’re desensitized. Either way, I think we’ve entered into a new season of understanding for Charles and we’ll have lots more talks about imagination and real vs. not real in the immediate future.
Boy, I wish there was a handbook for this parenting thing.