Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Letting kids be kids

Yesterday I went to an "orientation meeting" for Nicki's future kindergarten. The parents were together in one room with the principal, while the kids went off to a kindergarten classroom with the teacher. One of the things they had the parents do was fill in a short questionnaire about their kids. Most of the questions were pretty straightforward: name, age, did they go to preschool, how much French have they been exposed to, etc. But there was one question that I faltered on. It asked us to list our child's hobbies. It seemed innocent on the face of it, but really what were we supposed to answer? I mean seriously, hobbies? At 4 years old? Is there some sort of group of 4-year-olds out there taking up stamp collecting and needlepoint?

I was drawing a complete blank at that point, so I glanced around the room to see if others were struggling as well. No such luck. Pens were scribbling away, no doubt telling tales of their children's unwavering interest in classical violin or impressionist art. Even more discouraged at this point, I forced myself to calm down and think; what do my kids actually do? Then it hit me square in the face: they PLAY. They build with blocks, they draw pictures, they do puzzles, they get dressed up, they chase each other around the house, they feed their dolls, they race their cars, they look at books, they run and jump and climb and slide. THEY HAVE FUN.

In the school's defense they were clearly just trying to get to know my child better, but me being me, took it as a loaded question that really should have read "What extra-curricular activities do you force your child to be shuttled around to every day?" So instead of marking down the one activity that Nicki actually does participate in (swimming), I instead marked "playing" as my answer. I hope that the teacher who reads it will see beyond the simplicity of the answer to the deeper meaning behind it: my kid gets to be a kid and we are just fine with that. After all, isn't playing what childhood should be all about?