July 2013 Publisher Letter
Jul 03, 2013 02:43PM
One morning, my 9-year-old son, Yonatan, was particularly reluctant to get ready for school. The third-grader aptly expressed his indignation, declaring, “Who decided that kids are supposed to wake up early and go to school every single day and sit in a chair for eight hours straight, and not have hardly any time to relax and play outside? I’m a KID!”
I didn’t have a good answer; in truth, I agreed with him. My instincts tell me that childhood is meant to be joyful years of creative play and exploration. Still, as any parent would, I want my child to grow up to be successful in life, happy, well-educated and ultimately satisfied in a career. How do we balance such differing concerns, and do they necessarily conflict?
Reading Madeline Levine’s article, “Letting Kids Just Be Kids,” I identified with the idea of letting kids learn in ways that come naturally to them, and occasionally life’s daily lessons prove this right. My son has been taking piano lessons for three years, and getting him to practice is often a struggle, seeming like one more chore for both of us. Unsurprisingly, Yonatan often declares that he hates piano and wants to quit.
Still, I know that learning to play a musical instrument, if only for a few years, proves invaluable in life, and research backs me up. What I find most remarkable are the times when no one is looking and he sits at the piano on his own and just starts to play and make up songs. He creates beautiful compositions experimenting with different sound combinations and tempos, and it’s obvious that he enjoys the unstructured melody making, and perhaps even builds confidence in his piano skills. When he finds me watching, he smiles and asks, “Did you like that, Mommy? I made it up for you.”
Indeed, left to their own devices, children will explore and discover what they love and unknowingly gain strengths such as creativity, independence and selfconfidence. A parent’s challenge is to trust a youngster’s own process in the face of the demanding adult expectations of modern society.
Like other parents, each summer I seek ways to fill the string of empty weeks of school vacation. Yet I fondly recall my own best childhood summer pursuits as lazing on the couch reading, riding my bike, hanging out at the swimming pool with girlfriends and playing with my dog. When I was bored, I turned to making up songs on the piano, writing poetry and stories, and daydreaming.
These days, when I announce that we are having technology-free time at home, Yonatan will mope around for a while, complaining, “I’m bored!” I quietly smile and think, “What a wonderful thing for him to be.” Ten minutes later he is in his room searching through baskets of toys and things he hasn’t touched in months. After a while, he’ll call out to show me something new and creative he has made. Then I know in my heart that such unstructured time is one of the greatest gifts I can give him.
Celebrating the long and lazy days of summer,
Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher