As parents, we always want what's best for our kids. We ask the hard questions, do our research, and even get expert advice because we don't want to get caught up in a big parenting mistake. But one thing I think many of us forget to do is simply ask our children these very same questions. I recently realized this with my own 6-year-old son, and his response taught me a massive lesson about myself as a mother.
No, I won't give him a say in everything, especially as a young kid, but now I know the importance of welcoming him into the conversation.
Before my son started kindergarten, I did a lot of research about the different schools and teachers in our area. Because he's young for his grade, I wanted his teacher to be a good fit for him, and thankfully, we found one. Although the big kindergarten transition was a little tough on him due to the long days, he excelled with help from his teacher. And when the end of the school year neared, I knew I had to already start thinking about who his first grade teacher should be. "What class do you recommend for him?" I asked his teacher. "Oh, he'll be great for either looping or the multiage classroom," she responded. "He's a very independent learner."
While I was pleased to hear that he was an independent learner, this was not the answer I wanted. I had hoped that one teacher or classroom style would fit him best. So when we got home, I did what I always do . . . I researched. Looping is when you get the same teacher for two school years in a row, which I thought my son would love because he could form a strong connection with the same teacher. The multiage classroom does a lot of project-based learning where he would be placed in a room with older children, which I thought he would also love because he'd think it would be cool to be in a class with the "big kids." After all my research, I learned that both kinds of classrooms have their perks, and I couldn't decide which would suit my son's needs best. I didn't know what to do next. After all, this was a decision for me and his teacher, right?
But then one day while driving in the car, it dawned on me . . . why don't I just ask my son? I described the two different kinds of classrooms to him and I was shocked by his response. "Oh, Mommy," my son trembled, "I DO NOT want to be in a class with big kids." I looked in the rearview mirror and worry was painted across his face. He was visibly upset by the thought of being in a class with big kids. And because my son acts like the typical firstborn and wants to be good at everything, I realized then that he would probably put too much pressure on himself in a classroom with the older students. If he wasn't up to their speeds, he could push too hard to catch up. "OK, honey," I said. "I'll tell your teacher that I think you'd do better with looping." He looked like a deflated balloon after exhaling all that relief.
It was in that exact moment that I realized the answers to some of my hardest parenting questions lie right there in my own son. Yes, he's little, but it's his future, after all, and I didn't give him enough credit for knowing what he wants and thinking hard about what's best for himself. Kids should always have a say in things, regardless of their age. I want to involve my son in his own decisions now so that he knows how to make the right choices (or at least try to) later. I also want my son to know that I value his opinions and truly care about his own well-being and happiness. No, I won't give him a say in everything, especially as a young kid, but now I know the importance of welcoming him into the conversation. So, the next time I come across a hard dilemma regarding my children, I'll be sure to ask them before anyone else.
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