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Wide Angle Parenting

Too short!
Too tall.
It’s below the lines.
It’s above the lines.
It’s taking up half the page!
It’s tilted the wrong way.
You started in the wrong place.

I didn’t realize it a month and a half ago, but there are a lot of ways to write a number not exactly right on lined paper. It took me a month to realize I’d probably found them all, and shared each of them—multiple times—with my newly four-year-old son.

I didn’t realize I was doing it wrong until I noticed the way he’d mark a letter down, then await my response with trepidation. He was waiting for me to tell him he’d done it wrong.

It hit me: I’d been viewing his homework with way too small an angle.

wide angle parenting small

When I first learned he’d have homework, I contemplated telling the school exactly what I thought about the concept of homework for four-year-olds.

For Pete’s sake, they have the rest of their lives to be taskmastered! Let them have fun now!

I decided I’d play along because I wanted my son to be OK with work from an early age. I wanted him to start small and feel comfortable growing into the bigger, scarier stuff down the road.

Somehow, over the course of a few weeks, I lost that wide angle view. Wanting my son to get a feel for work quickly morphed into my expecting perfection from each letter he wrote.

I’m so thankful to have seen the what-did-I-do-wrong-this-time? look on his face when I did. Seeing that launched me back toward the right path, or the one where I want him to be comfortable with the feeling of working, and potentially even help him have fun doing so.

wide angle parenting med

My best work has never been done with someone breathing down my neck, breaking down every single thing I could be doing better. My best work has always come from times where I was given space to determine for myself what was and wasn’t working, with limited, patient guidance.

That trepidatious look on my son’s face told me he’s going to be a lot like his mama. I need to give him safe space to learn, and understand that the long term results will be much sweeter for it.

The last couple of weeks, my criteria has been a lot laxer than it was in the month of September.

Does it more or less look like the letter or number we’re working on? Yeah? Great!

The actual results this way are about what they were before, but we have a lot more fun, and I can see his confidence growing without every single pencil stroke being subject to criticism.

It was terrible to realize my son dreaded any of our time together. In fact, I beat myself up over it for several days.

But then I saw, same as I did with my son’s homework, that there’s more to my parenting than any single aspect of it.

If I remember to take a little wider view, I see there is a whole lot of joy I’m making along with my mistakes.

And it’s all right.

wide angle parenting

  1. October 18, 2013 at 6:43 am

    You are not guilty of anything other mothers haven’t been guilty of. The important thing is you caught yourself, enacted your own learning curve for parenting. You are absolutely right to go the route you are now. As a former teacher, I can tell you that he’s 4 and just developing small muscle control. His letters and numbers will be misshapen and possibly even backwards for a few more years, especially because he’s a boy. Boys are all about large muscle skills and develop the finer small muscle skills a little more slowly than girls. Your encouragement and acceptance are critical as well as your realization that you needed a wider angle. You taught your son something when you adjusted yourself even if you don’t realize it. That, my friend, is worth a lot, too. Rock on, Deborah.

    • October 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      It took me a week to say it, but thank you. I read this as I walked between the parking garage and work shortly after you posted it, and it took a huge weight off my shoulders. Your words made it even easier to embrace the wider angle instead of fixing my short stay in the narrow one. Thank you again, with many hugs.

  2. October 18, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Gad, you figured it out so quick you are brilliant. Some of us never figure it out till we are grandparents and we have so much more patience with our grandchildren.

    See, I think that six is perfect. If my grandson had shown it to me I would have slobbered all over it and him. On the other hand, if one of my sons at the same age had shown it to me, I would have said, exactly what you had been saying.

    You are brilliant. I love you and that you figured it so soon.

    • October 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      Same as I said to Miranda above, your words were a huge comfort to me. After posting this, my mind still kept returning to that what-did-I-do-wrong-now? look on Li’l D’s face, which meant I was fixated on the past instead of the better-now. Reading the first few comments on the post made it so much easier to get myself fully oriented, and to feel supported and loved (instead of self-judged as terrible).

      I love you. Thank you for your open encouragement and support. You make a world of difference to me and those who share this house with me.

  3. October 18, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Do not… I repeat… do not start beating yourself up over your parenting decisions. You’re going to do things that — in hindsight — you wish you hadn’t.

    Your children are so lucky to have you for a mother. You are kind, compassionate, intelligent, articulate, and human. When you recognize a mistake, correct it and move on. Your kids will have a rich, full life because of you.

    • October 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      Well said, Lisha and oh, so true, Deb. There are many things I wish I could “undo” but the time I spend wishing I could change the past is time I’m not spending in the present.

      • November 2, 2013 at 9:56 am

        You ladies. What am I even supposed to do with you? I can’t think of enough words or the right ones to even begin to express my feelings upon reading your sentiments, so instead I’ll say . . . thank you. I hope/think you can read all the rest between the lines. ♥

  4. October 18, 2013 at 7:21 am

    no two fish have ever swam the same route yet, and children are little fish

    • November 2, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Very true! It’s surprising to me how quickly I went from doing homework for my reasons to trying to get it done for someone else’s reasons. No, thanks.

  5. October 18, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Love, love, love this! Thank you, as always, for your refreshing and powerful perspective.

  6. October 18, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Thank you, thank you from a retired kg teacher! I love that you looked to your son for cues; in this test-crazy atmosphere, not enough emphasis is placed on responding to the messages children are trying to give the adults. None of my business, but maybe a discussion with his teacher as far as his “trepidatious look” — hope it doesn’t come from his school experience. Good job in handling this, and wonderful post!

  7. October 18, 2013 at 11:51 am

    It’s a beautiful six! Good for you for looking at the big picture. When you think about it, lots of fine motor going on here. The lines, proportion, perspective will come. ermigal has a point. “–hope it doesn’t come from his school experience.” something you will have to evaluate too, along the way.

  8. October 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    You done good!

  9. October 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Mistakes are integral to parenthood, just as they are to childhood. Don’t beat yourself up too much or you are doing to yourself what you regret having done to L’il D. Give yourself credit for discovering something you can improve on. Many people wouldn’t have noticed. Many people wouldn’t have done anything about it, even if they wanted to.

    Have I told you about this magnet I have on my fridge? A good friend gave it to me. It says, “Screwing up your kids makes them much more interesting adults.” I’m not suggesting you aim for this, but here’s what this magnet does for me: While I work very hard to do what is best for my L’il guy, when I make mistakes – an inevitable part of parenthood/living – I think of this magnet and I laugh. Helps me to not take myself too seriously. I know it hurts when we think we’ve hurt or damaged our kids or our relationship with them, but you know you can’t right? You know that your L’il D knows you love him more than anything, and if you make mistakes and own them and work to correct them, well just think what you are teaching him. xo

  10. October 19, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Your gut/mother’s instinct was RIGHT to begin with… 4 is way too young to be having home work. And again you are spot on….”For Pete’s sake, they have the rest of their lives to be taskmastered! Let them have fun now!” (It’s in the research! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/homework-research_b_2184918.html) Kids should develop a love for learning that gives them confidence & independence to face those tasks when they get older, not a lasting fear of am I doing it wrong or am I getting right? For early childhood development & learning….it’s all about PLAY. 🙂 google Alfie Kohn

  1. November 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm
  2. March 11, 2014 at 7:01 am
  3. March 26, 2015 at 7:52 pm
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  5. June 25, 2015 at 9:16 pm
  6. June 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm

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