I was at a park, sitting a few feet away from my very capable 1-year-old who was climbing up and down the stairs and skillfully maneuvering the slide. The mother of a young toddler followed her daughter through the structure close to Desmond. She spotted him, and looked concerned, thinking (I assume), “Where is this boy’s parent? Should I intervene?” She was alarmed – unaware of Desmond, his context, his mad climbing skills. From my place, however, she was hovering – crowding her daughter’s exploration, and giving her daughter a false sense of competency. Our eyes met almost immediately, and she asked, “Is he yours?”
That trip to the park affirmed what I know is true: parents and care providers approach the world, grounded and driven by very different values. Naming the driver frees us to think reflectively about what we say and do. We too easily stand in judgment, one eyebrow raised, observing another parent’s “hovering” or “uninvolved”. But one person’s “hovering” is another person’s “concern.” One parent’s “uninvolved” is another parent’s “competency-building.” In naming the value driving us, we can view the decisions of others with curiosity, motivated by relationship to ask questions that reveal the underlying values behind those decisions. And together, we can find points of connection, compromise, and truth.
So while I recognize that I can’t judge your choices by the rubric of my driver, I think it’s important for me – as one who shares advice, ideas, and lessons – to name the value in my driver’s seat, in the spirit of honest reflection. I know many characters ride shotgun: independence, self-sufficiency, resilience, compassion, curiosity, and self-assurance, but in truth, these are all mere navigators. At the deepest core of who I am, I hold respect as my highest value. I will champion many causes, but to maintain my personal sense of wholeness, they all ride as passengers with respect behind the wheel.
Because respect is driving, I seek to preserve a child’s emotional integrity, and do not distract tantrums or melting-down.
Because respect is driving, I allow children to maintain control over their mouths, to choose to refuse food or take seconds.
Because respect is driving, I resist the urge to stand a baby before she can stand on her own.
Because respect is driving, I champion play-based, child-directed learning.
Because respect is driving, I preserve the child’s control over his body, and don’t tickle, wrestle, or toss high-in-the-sky as a way of playing, before the child has a strong vocabulary to tell me when they’ve had enough. And at that point, STOP or NO is respected immediately.
Because respect is driving, I encourage a child to find her own sense of beauty in artistic expression, value the process over the product.
Because respect is driving, I refrain from evaluations: “I like that picture.” or “You’re a good runner.” because I want children to find satisfaction and fulfillment without contorting their art or their efforts to measure up to what I think is great.
I expect that a different value drives your decisions. You may consider some of the same causes close to your heart, or you may even find respect in your driver’s seat and end up at a different destination. Who’s driving your car? Can you easily point to one value that drives everything else you do? I value your comments, and would love to hear your thoughts below!