Wide Angle Parenting
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.
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.
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.