2022 Annual Appeal: Donate Today!
Location: 55 Hudson St. Time: 1.15 - 2.15 p.m.
Change Starts at Home: Parenting for a More Just World
Location: 134 Duane St. Time: 9.15 - 10.15 a.m.
Mindful Parenting: Riding Emotional Waves with Calm & Compassion
Grappling with Achievement Culture: How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Kids in High-Achieving Settings
Beyond Stereotypes: Understanding Gender, Socialization & Development
55 Hudson St. More details to follow in the weekly newsletter.
Dear Washington Market Community,
As I wrote recently, we continue to be absorbed with news of Covid. This week’s letter will have news of both, our Covid thinking and our non-Covid world. To the former, our thanks to Nurse Cheryl for her work and perseverance as she relayed her satisfying and informative conversation with the Department of Health team. Continued thanks to our parents who have been writing their appreciation of what our staff members are doing to follow good practice for our community as they think through each decision we make. And of course to our delicious teachers who don’t miss a beat when they are told they must create another week’s program online in a day and use their creativity and energy to keep each of their children first in their planning, all the while channeling their inner actor.
We are all learning together that the world we were lead to believe was somewhat predictable is in fact anything but. We adults are sorting out what is vital, what we believe. We want our children safe. We want our children in school. Sometimes we are not sure of what is the best path but we struggle to stay optimistic and trusting. This need for remaining open and flexible has me thinking about a recent article in the WSJ (“What Children Lose When Their Brains Develop Too Fast” 12/9/2021).
And so here’s the return to the Non-Covid part, thinking about the delicate dance between parents and their children and how seemingly reasonable decisions and actions that parents may take can actually inhibit the warm and lovely development of which all children are capable. It reminds us of what we want for our children, the resilience to face the present and the future.
This article, written by Alison Gopnik, begins with the premise that, with some “middle-class ‘high investment’ parents anxiously tracking each milestone for their child, it’s easy to conclude that the point of being a parent is to accelerate your child’s development as much as possible. Both parents and policy makers increasingly push preschools to be more like schools.”
But, according to Gopnik, this is an oversimplification and that “a slower, longer, more nurturing childhood may actually be the best way to prepare for adulthood.”
What is particularly interesting is that a child’s reaction to tight scheduling as well as to what are called “adverse childhood experiences,” such as physical or emotional neglect; divorce; addiction or mental illness in the home, is to speed up his or her physical development. It is almost as if, Gopnik suggests, by moving more toward physical maturity, children will be better able to cope with the stresses in their lives.
One particular area where this can have deleterious effects is a child’s brain. Toddlers have brains that are quite “plastic,” more open to experience, better able to learn. As we age, our brains become more efficient, but lose some of that plasticity. Better, as Gopnik says, at “exploiting, but not so good at exploring.” So, slowing down the growth toward being an adult, allows the brain to remain in a plastic state longer and offers a path to a more fulfilling life perhaps, as Gopnik says, because it helps “children maintain a sense of possibility.” I would add that Maria Montessori instinctively understood this as both a medical doctor and a world-class innovator. And it is why we do not direct children to specific activities but offer them a spectrum of activities and allow them to choose what they may want to do.
All of this, it should be noted, actually makes parenting a good deal easier since simply loving your children and giving them space to learn and explore is more important than crafting for them a particular curriculum or set of activities.
We in our community are bound together, playing together, with hope and the belief that we can stay strong and open to what comes each day.
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