When we were in Kindermusik together, during Sharing Time after he’d been in class with his peers and instructor, my now 11-year-old son preferred to sit in my lap while the other kids showed their grown-ups what they had learned. It wasn’t that he hadn’t participated earlier — his teacher reassured me that he had. But with me in the room, he preferred not to be with the group. Conversely, my exuberant younger daughter, three years later and in the same class, was the first one up to show me exactly how they had pretended to be rabbits or trains or boats. And she always made sure that I was sitting just so, in order to get the best view.
Sometimes I found it difficult, worrying if there was something wrong with my son in those early days. Why didn’t he want to participate? But with another 7 years of parenting him, I understand exactly why. He just needed some extra time to connect with me, just as he does now (in 11-year-old fashion). Also, he continues to observe the world around him and I’m amazed at what he has learned. Meanwhile, my exuberant daughter has taken up drumming…to nobody’s great surprise.
As parents and caregivers, we know our children share similar characteristics. But we also understand that they are incredibly unique. Consequently, their temperaments and personalities will shape the way they engage in class. At the foundation of our studio, lies the belief that we follow the child, which means that our little ones have permission to engage with class the way that best suits them. If they’re overwhelmed with the noise and stimulation, it is always OK to leave the studio for a bit to seek some calm. If they would rather sit back and watch others, we offer them this gift of authenticity, knowing that there are multiple ways to learn the concepts we are emphasizing in class, and one of those ways includes observation of others.
Our children will forever have to negotiate messages about what they “should” be. Let us give them as many spaces as possible just to be.