Last week, I was able to spend a day with our two grandchildren, Carter, a little over 2 1/2 years old and his sister Emerson who is now 3 1/2 months old. While I played with our own two children when they were that age, my body of knowledge (even as a teacher at the time) of early learning was limited. Being high school trained, early learning was never part of my education. You might say, that I was even a little uppity (as most high school teachers were at that time) to “those teachers” who taught kindergarten or even elementary grades.
I’ve always been very comfortable around young ones. In other words babies don’t scare me. People that I work with know my baby rule, which states, “When babies come to central office, my office is their first stop.” But being comfortable around young ones is not enough when it comes to the importance of early learning. I’ve only become better informed since our Division started working with the likes of Dr. Robbin Gibb from the University of Lethbridge and the Palix Foundation. Their work with the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative has provided some of the best resources for parents, grandparents and dare I say community leaders throughout. How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development is a must introductory watch for all.
But now let’s get back to grandparents and early learning. One thing for sure, I certainly have more dedicated time to spend with our grandchildren than I did as a parent with our own children. And, for some reason, I have more patience and don’t get nearly as stressed out about non-perfect behaviour. Two-year olds are going to be two-year olds because that is part of how they develop. They don’t wake up every morning and think, “How am I going to annoy mommy, daddy, caregiver today?” I know that is hard for parents to understand when it is their child who is screaming at the top of his/her lungs wanting that toy, etc. And worse, are the looks from those who believe that their own children never behaved that way or the insinuation that if the parents were only more strict those tantrums wouldn’t occur! Yeah right!!! Shame on any of you who judge parents in those situations!
As a grandparent I can simply be more present. I get to play and teach at the same time with far greater patience with not an expectation of rules but rather fun, laughter and learning. When I play with Play-Doh with my grandson, I get to ask, “How many planes did we make and let’s count them” or “What color is that car?” or “What sound does the train make?” When I hold my granddaughter in my lap, I gaze into her eyes and ask her to tell me a story or play peek-a-boo or just cuddle her so she knows that she is safe. And it goes without saying that story time is a must!
I know that our society has put such burdens on parents these days that just being present to their children in natural play is very difficult. While I hope that desire of parents to be present to their children and to be their child’s first educators is never ignored or omitted, grandparents have a great ability to impact early learning by getting involved and supporting the toughest and most important job of parenting. It is a great gift and I can’t wait for the next time to interact with our two grandchildren.