So, today we’re playing, “Have the Parent’s Lost Their Freaking Minds!?” What you see before you is not a photoshopped gag. It’s not a posed shot, wherein (almost) 4 year-old Echo is pretending to cut the tofu. And it isn’t nearly as insane as it may look either.
Yes, Echo is actually doing what it looks like. She chopped up this part of our dinner as Natalie was preparing other things, just out of frame to the right. I was also standing nearby, watching intently, and mentioning important things like, “Hey your toes are a little close to the knife blade…”.
I decided to take this shot, and to write the current post, because it has recently come to my attention that Natalie and I trust our kids to be more able than other parents do with their kids. We were in the Quality Supply looking to buy some chicks the other week, and I was really surprised by just how many parents told their kids that they could not hold the chirping little fluff-balls. I was even more incredulous by how many parents clearly indicated that they did not trust their kids to be mindful of keeping the chicks safe — i.e. not “squash/hurt/kill” them. Meanwhile, Echo is going from trough to trough holding this chick and then that one, and then another.
Jean Liedloff, author of the seminal Natural Parenting book, The Continuum Concept, relates a story of a young village kid (where Liedloff was studying) who was playing near a pit filled with various sticks and branches, and even though the child had just begun learning to walk, no one was running over to the kid and shouting, “Look out! You’ll fall and get hurt!”. Everyone just assumed that the baby would keep himself safe, and he did.
Now I think that is some radical trust. And I don’t pretend to be that fully enlightened, reprogrammed, or bold in my unerring trust of my children. But it reminds me of what is plausible for humans being raised and behaving naturally.
One of the other things that Liedloff noted was just how many of the village babies were being carried around and cared for by very young children, not much more than toddlers themselves. The parents had such faith in, and understanding of, their children that they even entrusted their infants to them; and the young children apparently had no trouble whatsoever in performing the necessary tasks, nor did any of the parties seem anything less than delighted with this arrangement.
The bottom line is that our kids, all of them, are much, much more capable than we give them credit for being. And if we would, instead of handicapping them with our fear, learn to trust and empower them, well, we might be parenting very different children all together. We might even make the parenting of our children all that much easier on ourselves in the process.
By the way, Echo learned to hold a knife, first, by holding a parent’s hand for a couple of years. Then she graduated to “just checking it out” by holding a knife apart from cutting. And the scene above — that was actually her first time really doing all the cutting on her own. But watching her, and knowing just how über-capable she is in general — it makes me wonder in what other ways we’ve held her back…
Be well, my fellow true believers.