Friday, August 25, 2006

Yesterday I had the opportunity to wrestle with the question of how early should a child be ushered into independence. We were in the mountains picking up merchandise for the business and had an impromptu picnic in a beautiful park that had a quiet lazy spring bubbling through it.

As we carried our bags of groceries and the boxes of chicken that wafted delightful scents into the air through the park, I spied a mother crossing the bridge over the spring who was accompanied by two little children. A slight young girl who looked to be about three and beside her, a little boy who was a mirror image of our little Elsa in that he carried the same adorable mop of red curls on his head and sported invisible eyebrows. He was plumper that our Elsa, but about the same height and I was so curious as to how close they were in age so I asked the mum how old he was.

She paused and stared at him before replying; "Hmmmm, I think maybe around 2." I looked at him again, very confused by her uncertainty and because if he was two - he was very wobbly a walker for a 2 year old and well, very short. The mother must have noted my confusion as she turned to look at him and hummed again.

I said helpfully, "Well, my little red head here is about 16 months..."
“Ahh,” she said, "Yeah, I guess he too is maybe a year and half. Yeah, he is probably about that, now that I think of it. " And then addressing what must have been utter puzzlement on my face, she continued.

"Oh he's not mine, I just baby sit him."

Now perhaps this was a last minute arrangement for neighbor that had an emergency and so this mum was not too familiar with her little charge. But if she is his regular caregiver I have to wonder, really wonder at her having no clue as to his age. There is such a huge difference between 16 months and 24 months in terms of development and what kind of expecatations to have of a child. If she is his regular caregiver how could she be so disinterested in his age?

Later I watched her push her daughter on a swing and watched how this little fellow sturdily held onto the chains of his own swing as it flowed back and forth in the air.
I pondered.
Elsa at the ripe old age of 16 months and surrounded by all her slaves, err siblings has never had to learn how to swing alone yet. And so I pondered some more about that.

Independence is all well and fine I thought, and it might lead this little boy to great things later in life, but I decided that it was not necessarily the optimal choice for one so young. We leave our childhood behind soon enough as is, never to return. While I do not want Elsa to babied into her adulthood neither do I want her rushed into it. I am happy that yesterday she was able to cuddle on her older sister’s lap on a swing and lay her head on her sisters shoulder and enjoy the gentle breeze in her bangs while her sister slowly and carefully swung with a most precious cargo embraced in her arms. So I hope for this little boy’s sake that this was a one day only arrangement and that he is normally surrounded with the same love and support that Elsa is given all day long, seven days a week.

I hope Elsa also achieves the independence that this sturdy little fellow shows, but that she does it in her own time and is neither held back into her babyhood, nor rushed out of it. Read more!