So I vividly remember the first “snow day” in our new house after I had quit work. The announcement that school was canceled came over the radio, and I was whisked back to my own childhood. I spent a few minutes savoring the joy of those special days, with sledding and hot chocolate. I stayed in bed for a while until my sleepy-eyed son and his little sister came in to find out why he was still at home. They both jumped into bed with me, overjoyed to be staying in their pajamas for a while. Then, I bundled them up to go out and play while I fixed the hot chocolate, like my own mother did for me.
These sorts of moments of shared joy are precious. Maybe your child plays a sport or an instrument that you played, and you watch as they learn and grow in their abilities. It’s wonderful to sit back and see them develop. And it’s important that we let them experience it for themselves. Sometimes, in parenting, due to unfulfilled dreams or a desire to see our children succeed, we force our own images or goals onto our kids. We take away the sheer joy of learning by expecting them to take the same route we took or to achieve more than we were able to achieve. Nothing deflates the balloon of enjoyment faster, particularly for creative pastimes or athletics, than when parents muddy the endeavor with specific approaches and demanding expectations.
This is especially problematic when children are really young. Ideally, all of their learning, both in and out of school should be as free from stress as possible. I advise parents to balance the need to teach their children time management and good study skills with the freedom to explore these processes on their own. Children need and crave structure, but we don’t have to force it in every dimension of their lives. Routines are good for kids and help families run smoothly, but allowing toddlers and young children the opportunity to plot their own course, to fail, and to try again and again is key to fostering resiliency, self-efficacy (i.e.,“ I am capable”) , and independence—traits that will serve them well over their lifetimes.
Our daughter is finishing up her last year in high school now. Next fall, she will be off to college, and I hope we have given her the freedom to succeed on her own terms. But I have to admit ... I’m praying for just one more snow day so she can snuggle up to me one last time. So we can share that childhood joy just once more before she heads off into this wide and wild world.