Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Need to KNOW!

"What's this, a dinosaur?" I asked while passing the snack tray. One of my 3 yr old friends had brought a toy dinosaur to the table.

"Yes." (Okay note to self, no more yes/no questions)

"I love stegosauruses."

"It's not a stegosaurus, it's a (some really long dinosaur name), I have a lot of dinosaurs"

"What's your favorite?"

"The Tyrannosaurus Rex, but I like the (some other really long name) and the (ditto)"

This 3 yr old was dino off the charts. He knew names, descriptions, what they ate. He was in short a dino expert. I however as you can tell, can't even spell the names I know and refuse to attempt those I don't.

I talked to his mom after class and she was telling me how excited he was about dinosaurs. She knew all the names too. She talked with passion about how they would read stories about dinos, watch shows, and play with dino figures. This got me thinking back to the time, not so long ago when I was a truck expert. I know those of you who know me are amazed, but I could actually tell the difference between a front loader and a cherry picker. Why? Good question.

Because my child was into it. We would spend countless moments reading stories about trucks, just books that described trucks and YES watching the garbage man. The highlight of the week! Because it was important to my child I got into it to. I wanted to share in the excitement and help in learn about what he was "into" in that moment. Have you watched and excited 3 yr old watch the garbage pick up, or stand in awe at a construction site - how can you not want to support that enthusiasm. Just like the dino mom, I became the truck mom, and I'm sure many of you became the princess mom, or the bug mom, or the train mom. When our young kids show interest in something we do to and we do all we can to help them learn as much as possible and in the process become experts ourselves.


Chatting with this Dino Mom made me realize that I no longer know everything there is to know about the things that interest my children. They are both into soccer and even though I have been to more games than I remember it is only recently that I can accurately tell you what an "off-sides penalty" is and that is thanks to the conversation above. It made me realize that I had forgotten to be interested in what interests the people I brought into the world. I also realized that I hadn't encouraged their interests the way I used to. Yes, I know that part of this is the natural development of parenting and I am letting them discover their own interests, but isn't that what they did as toddlers? Yet, then I helped them along and showed interest too. We had great conversations about things and both learned details and shared moments.

What happens to that? and What would happen if we never let that go?

So, I set out to learn about soccer. I got out of the car (yes, that was me cheering from the car on rainy days) and got into the sport. I actually read the info from the coach instead of asking my husband where the games are, and I can hold a pretty good conversation about what happened at this weekend's game/tournament. I know who was playing where (I'm still working on all the names) and what that position does. I have to say - I LOVE IT!! not soccer, but the knowing soccer, the being able to talk soccer with my kids and have them see that I'm genuinely interested in what interests them. It is great to say "You did some really good defending out there, it seems like you are connecting with the ball and can read the field to know where it should go." or " Yep, if it wasn't for those corner kicks..."

For those of you in class, remember all that talk about praise vs encouragement? Well, this is the ultimate in encouragement. If you don't know what you are talking about it does become empty praise. Knowledge give us authenticity with our kids. It also shows them that what they care about is important to us too. We can have conversations that don't revolve around who needs to do what.

Think back to when you felt that your children stopped listening. It could have been, just around the same time you stopped being interested in their interests. What was left to talk about?

Today's lesson: There are a couple. The first is to get interested. What is it that you are so passionate about you want to know everything there is to know. Can you really be a Jane Austin fan and not know her birthday? (12/16) What about knitting, or football, or running - what is it that you want to know more about? Figure it out and find out. Let your passion become the thing that drives you to discover the detailiest of details. The second is get to know the interests of those people who are important to you. Be truly interested in what someone has to say about something that is important to them. Actively listen. Ask questions and look up information to share with them. This exchange of passions doesn't have to stop as we get older, in fact it should become deeper and more interesting.

Today's Parenting Lesson: Keep up with interests. Don't stop getting to know what they know just because they are getting more independent. Share stories and learn together. Be the one they want to come to with new facts. Imagine the power you have as a parent if you start sharing information with each other. Don't be afraid to not know it all, good things happen when our kids get to teach us things. Use their interests to foster literacy. Bring books home, read articles. Of course you will have to understand that these interests will change. So be flexible. Just because I learned a lot about soccer doesn't mean that I should now be frustrated because I'm about to go read up on swim meets. How do those things work anyway and why do we have to sit there all day just to watch her swim twice? Hmmm guess I better go figure out how far 100 meters is, and whether that is one lap or two.

Any comments?
Let me know what you're interested in, and how do you share your child's interests without taking them over?