In my 4 years of parenting I’ve read a few parenting books, mostly frantically searching for ways to get baby F to actually sleep. I’ve read airy fairy ones that I couldn’t see how to apply to my life, and I’ve read harsh ones that seemed to me tantamount to child cruelty (one that I actually felt compelled to destroy as I couldn’t bear the thought of a desperate parent picking it up in a charity shop!) I don’t think reading a lot of parenting books is a good idea. Your life and your child do not fit in a box and the last thing you need is more people telling you what to do. I’m a big believer in instinct and being true to yourself and your child.
Despite that, I’ve found a real gem. Kim John Payne’s Simplicity Parenting is wonderful. This isn’t an instruction manual but an in depth discussion of how, for so many children, their childhood is being stolen from them by doing too much, too fast and with too much pressure. Payne calls for us as parents to slow down, switch off the electronics and reduce the pressure, schedules and pace of our children’s lives. He asks us to allow children the space to enjoy their childhood and embrace the vital learning processes that they will naturally go through. It is all that I believe and more that I hadn’t thought of. He writes as a parent and also as a child psychologist so has some really interesting insights into modern childhood.
I really enjoy his writing style as he isn’t prescriptive in his recommendations but just shares what he knows and the experiences of families he has worked with, and allow readers to choose if, and how, an idea might work in their own families.
Since starting to read the book I’ve been thinking more and more about F’s kindergarten schedule. I’ve been very quick to say no to extra things in my schedule that won’t enrich our lives, but perhaps I have been side-lining his feelings about kindergarten. This week F missed 3 mornings of kindergarten and the effects were instantly felt all round: he had more energy, he was better behaved, he was happier to go to kindergarten in the afternoons and we had a lot more time to play.
This week his kindergarten began after-school classes in art, English, music and dancing. My first thought was, why on earth can’t they do these things during the day?! F and his classmates are expected to be at kindergarten before 9 and, with a sleep (when we whisk our child away while the others stay), til 5.20pm. They then do activities from 5.30 til 6.15pm. Every day, Monday to Friday. My child is not yet 4. ENOUGH.
Initially we listened to the teachers when they said whole school days would be better for his language immersion, but actually when F is at home in the morning we listen to Chinese songs, my husband reads him Chinese stories and we play games. It’s a fun and relaxing way to learn, and actually he’s learning more than in class where it’s all a bit too fast and over his head. This week we’ve made indoor tents, explored textures with crayon rubbing and done a lot of silly dancing. We also visited a friend of his who we have trouble catching at weekends. Slow, child-led exploratory play. It’s been wonderful and F has been so happy.
From now on F will only go to kindergarten in the afternoons and he won’t be doing any after school activities. Simplicity Parenting has made me a bit more confident in my own parenting instincts and abilities and for that I’m very grateful.
(*Yes it is Monday, we went offline for a few days as we forgot to pay for the internet. It was actually quite nice!)