Lest anyone worry that as the third child August gets anything less than his fair share of time, attention, or (heaven forbid!) food, this morning I decided to peruse a respected child development website to check on how our youngest lad is faring.
I was reading the section on language milestones in the 24th month when I came across a litany of ideas of how parents can “continue to entertain [their] child.” It then delineated crafts and projects that have the potential to exhaust most of the 24 hours in the day–all in the name of stimulating (read: being a good parent to) your child.
And that’s about when I decided to stop reading and start writing. It strikes me as remarkable that as parents we are being told by so-called authorities to “entertain” our children. The very word renders parenthood into some kind of performance where the child sits back and has to do nothing more than enjoy the show. As an adult I do not expect anyone to entertain me (I have my piles of laundry for that); so why are we expected to entertain our children? For what are we setting them up? Will they become students who sit in a class later on and term it “boring” because their teacher is not entertaining them? Will they sit passively as adults waiting for something to happen? Will they turn to unhealthy methods of “entertainment” when the show of childhood is over?
It’s hard to say. But what I do know is that children–from the time they are born–are inherently wired to know what they need and how to communicate those needs. An infant knows when it is time to eat; a toddler knows when it is time to talk; a school-age child knows when it is time to read. And I think we do a disservice to children when we allow ourselves to believe that we have to put on a juggling act (or run an arts-and-crafts center) in the name of keeping them entertained. Sure, the supplies should be available to them–lots of markers and paper and tape–but let them take the lead. Let them decide what they want to do. They are already wired to know–so let them do it. Banish the word “bored” and all its forms and let children actively entertain themselves. It allows you to catch up on that entertaining pile of laundry, yes; but, more importantly, it sets the stage for the lifelong skills of finding stimulation and feeling wonder no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
In the meantime, in case you were wondering, August is doing just fine . . . and then some–even without our stopping everything to entertain him. Go figure.