August 27, 2011

Skills. "I'm gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow." -paul simon

Our late neighbor, Earl (around 90 at the time), declared when Mason & Eric were wee little guys, that "we learn more in the first five years than the rest of our life."  Beau, hitting four and a half years old, has been in the prime of that zone.  Learning, learning, learning.

I recently came across an article titled, "Where Have Basic Skills Gone?" 
It reported that youngsters are growing more likely to be able to use a computer mouse or an i-phone, than use a pencil, write their own name, or tie their shoes.  It also discussed that not just technology, but parents are to blame, as these days a large majority of our society expects things immediately (instant gratification.)  Meaning moms & dads aren't allowing sufficient time and patience to allow kids to practice & develop all kinds of life skills, like getting dressed & potty training.  Those things require time to let a kid explore, fail, and ultimately succeed.  Many find it more convenient to just do it for them, or put it off.  Kids are lacking certain basic readiness & missing out on a lot of character building.  Independence & accomplishing tasks on their own builds positive determination & self-confidence.
I'm old fashioned in some of my values, like Earl was.  I thought good points were made here.       

When it comes to basic skills, Beau has been a champion of them. 
He potty trained a lifetime ago.  Personally I feel that having a kid in diapers until they're four years old is an underestimate of the child, and an injustice to the earth.  That said, I don't know what we did or that we can take credit for Beau's very early farewell to diapers both day & night.  But we never would have known, had we not tried & encouraged.  

Maybe that success leads to wanting more of it, because next he was zipping his winter jacket all by himself with tiny toddler fingers.  He was determined he could do it, and did.  Then he smiled & was off perfecting his somersault.   

When he mastered riding a two-wheel bike at three & a half years old last fall, I could hardly believe it.  But we helped him take off & keep after it.  The kids live on their bikes.  Beau goes everywhere on his, which is pieced together from the parts of three or four older bikes. 
It's a skill that is giving him plenty of motor development, balance & coordination.  As well as happiness.
And it gives me great joy, seeing how darn cute he is zooming around care-free, legs just a whirling. All of them riding up & down & around, stopping to snack on berries here & there. To me, it's a pure picture of a good, healthy, simple summer as a kid.
I was away from home overnight, early in July, for a family funeral.  It was a long & sad couple of days, though time well spent traveling the highway with my dad & brother & joining lots of family in coming together.  The evening after I got home, Beau wanted to show me something - that he can tie shoes!  I was again amazed, and in disbelief at how my little guy is growing fast.  
Figuring Lilly must have worked with him while I was away, I congratulated him and asked who taught him. 
"Nobody," he said.. "I didn't know how to do it, so I taughted myself."  
And so, at four years, four months, he conquered tying shoe laces (and anything else that can be tied.)
Tying shoes took designated time & a little practice with his older siblings, which they learned just fine.  It hadn't even arrived on my mind to sit Beau down to learn the task yet.  He beat me to it.   

And he keeps on learning.  The kids somehow have Granny charmed into bringing them a pack of gum to share each time she stops at our house.  It was randomly discovered as we were sitting in our living room this past month - that Beau can now blow bubbles, too.  Johnathan & Lilly are a tad envious; they're still trying to conquer that one.  :)

I told him pretty soon there's not going to be anything left for me to teach him! I corrected myself quickly, though - we can always find more to learn.  He's great with scissors, pencil & crayon, draws all kinds of good stuff, but he's not very interested in writing his name right now.  Something we can work on!

One of my favorite photos of our summer: 
On our way to visit Marianne.  Following big brother & sister's bike tracks.  It's a rather long incline to climb for little legs.  He's got to pedal about ten times for our every one. 
Beau is up for most any challenge. 
Cliche, but true; it's bittersweet watching them grow. 
I'm in no hurry for my children to "grow up." 
I'd slow time down if I could. 
But slow down their zest & progress? Never.
It's our job, and our joy, to nurture growth.

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