How do we juggle parenting our children with the work we know we must do to facilitate a livable world for them when they are grown?
In Part I of this three-part post, I considered things from a Transition Initiative’s point of view – what we could include in our programming to welcome kids into our circle. In this segment, I’ll discuss issues specific to parents of young children – children below school age. This falls into two general categories: at T.I. meetings, and in the home environment.
At Transition Initiative meetings
Despite all that I wrote in part I of this post, it’s likely the members of your steering group who don’t have young kids won’t spend much time thinking about how to involve kids in T.I. activities. That will be up to you, the one who is in the parenting life-phase. As you design it for your own needs, you will open your T.I. to other families.
Be assertive. Bring your kids to the sessions you attend. Invent age-appropriate ways that your own kids can get involved, and pave the way for other parents. When you’re welcoming newcomers into the circle, don’t hesitate to mention that kids and family are welcome.
Train your kids in appropriate ways to behave at the sessions. Plan ahead and make sure naps and meals occur on time. Don’t go flying from a rush-rush-rush spate of errands into a “sit still” meeting session; it simply won’t be successful.
Bring snacks and toys as well as diapers. One of our La Leche League tricks was to have a bag of toys that was special, only for meetings. That way it was fresh and held attention for longer than if it was the old familiar. If your child does have an old favorite, by all means bring that along. Consider paper and crayons, even for pre-writers, as a fresh and different activity.
Sidewalk chalk works wonders for us for mid-day sessions. If you’re doing a reskilling workshop, can you plan something somewhat similar for the little kids? Some seeds to sort into pie tins, a ball of bread dough to punch, a toddler-style sewing card, or a special place in the garden for kid-style digging.
If the meeting runs long, walk with your child. You can walk circles around the room. Break it up a bit. Color some, play some, walk some, repeat. Ask around the steering group whether anyone else has bigger kids who might be interested in occasionally playing with the baby. My daughter has played “catch” with toddlers, she’s organized “treasure hunts,” and we’ve had beanbag throws.
When your little one cries, do pick him up and briefly carry him outside the meeting session to calm him down. Sometimes it’s simply a bit of hugging and attention that he wants before he launches off into the next activity.
The home environment
What do you surround your children with? What types of toys, what types of activities, what types of food? When my son was very young, we attended a Waldorf-style Mommy & Me class. It was my first introduction to the Waldorf philosophy, and it really stuck. Amazingly enough, many of those things I learned at the Waldorf class more than a decade ago are perfect for kids in this Transition time.
In the Mommy & Me class, our activities were practical, domestic, hands-on, such as baking, painting, gardening and handicrafts. (Wow, how do you say “reskilling”?) We parents were invited into the Waldorf philosophy which included earth-focused activities, and honoring the seasons. (Ah, do I hear Permaculture echoed here?)
Waldorf-style toys tend to be made from natural materials such as real wool, cotton, and wood. They tend to be very simple toys, like dolls, dishes, costumes, and long flowy rectangles of filmy fabric that Waldorf people call “silks.” Ideal toys are open-ended in that they can be put to multiple purposes by the active mind of the child. A simple wedge of wood can become a sorcerer’s staff, a corral for a horse, or endless other useful things in multiple imaginary games. Contrast this with today’s “computer literacy” which demands that toddlers learn to push buttons which have only a single functionality designed by an adult.
Waldorf’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, experimented with agriculture as well as education. Steiner’s ideas influenced Alan Chadwick, John Jeavons, David Holmgren and the Permaculture movement. In our home garden, I continue the learning process begun in that long ago Waldorf class. Our home garden grows wildly and vibrantly. There are curvilinear paths and hide-and-seek niches. There are flowers at child level, and in those days I grew favorite veggies within easy reach for kids to harvest. Even when they were tiny, my children each had their own “garden” in a large flowerpot.
I’m not a studied psycho-analyst nor a sociologist, but I believe that it is in early childhood that we develop our sense of what is normal, our definition of home, and our core sense of what is contentment. If we raise our children with the sense that a computer-assisted, polished techno-world is “normal,” if we raise our children on a steady diet of more-more-more, they will continually seek to replicate that in their future. And with what we know is coming in their adulthoods, we are setting them up for disappointment, frustration, dismal depression, and eternal yearning for that which they will never again have.
If instead we raise our children with a sense of the seasons of the earth, on a diet of the freshest local vegetables, with a life pace that matches earth pace, and toys which replicate the real physical tasks of a powerdown future ... I believe our children are much more likely to find satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment that their future “feels” like their deep inner-core sense of normal and home.
Continued at ... “Kids and Transition – Part III – Parenting School-Aged Kids”
Young Children resources:
The Continuum Concept http://www.continuum-concept.org/
Guinness, Bunny, Creating a Family Garden
Muller, Gerda, The Garden in the City
Children’s environmental booklist by the Environmental Change-Makers (pdf)
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