To the Editor:
I have been taking care of young children in my home in West Tisbury for 32 years. I feel sad about the way our parenting and professional child care have evolved during this time. Nowadays parents often seem so anxious about their children. And the child care professionals who regulate how care is provided in our pre-schools and day care homes and centers, have taken an increasingly intrusive, rigid, and fearful view of children and their caretakers.
My hope is that parents might consider the pressures they feel from the media, the child care “experts,” and other parents, and make decisions regarding their families, based on their common sense and love.
I think we need to ask ourselves some questions.
• Are we worrying too much? Are we comparing our children with others and becoming anxious, ignoring the incredible diversity amongst them (also knowing we are wise enough to recognize when our child is truly struggling)?
• Are we accumulating too much stuff we don’t really need? Are we spending money unnecessarily and complicating our lives? The equipment a baby “needs” now has snowballed.
• Do we have unrealistic fears about our children’s health and safety? Are we afraid of any kind of risk? Do we practice extreme sanitation, exposing our children to allergy-causing cleaning products, and undermining the development of their immune systems?
• Do we overuse technology at the expense of kids being outdoors, experiencing nature directly and physical activity?
• Are we over-scheduling our children? Do we give them enough ”free” time, even time to be “bored” and figure things out for themselves?
• Do we think we should teach young children a lot of facts about nature? The strongest influence on a small child’s love of nature and desire to protect the planet is awe.
Early childhood should be a time of joyousness and freedom to play, imagine, be creative, explore, and experiment. Children learn all the time about themselves and the world around them without a lot of adult intervention. Undue pressures on children, unrelenting supervision and attention, and plunking them in front of TVs, videos, and computers for long periods of time undermine their imagination, their energy, and self-confidence. Within themselves they have amazing powers of learning, self-discovery, problem solving, and joy.
At no other time of life do we get to have so much fun and freedom from responsibility, strict routines, and stress. Let’s not worry so much. Let’s let our kids be kids.
Thank you to all the amazing children and their families I have known. You have taught me and given me so much.