Then we thought about other items we needed such as balloons. “I’ll be back in a tip” she said again and off she merrily went out her bedroom door, returning a moment later with the pretend balloons. She handed them out and we began to (pretend) blow them up. As we were tying knots, her balloon got away and she used her hands and voice to act out the balloon spinning around and deflating. It was beautiful to see and it made me laugh. Not laugh at her but laugh with her and she laughed too. And we felt happy.
We thought again about what else we might need for the party and I suggested a piñata. Sabrina liked the idea and off she went with her bag over her wrist “I’ll be back in a tip”. I do admit her saying “I’ll be back in a tip” was amusing, but I never laughed at it. When you laugh at children, I believe it humiliates them and they are well aware of when you laugh at them and not with them. It’s about appreciating children and being in the present moment, as children are, and this helps build their confidence as you are focused and guided by their desires and imagination in the game letting them take the leading role.
The fact that Sabrina is using expressive language "I'll be back in a tip" shows her developmental stage. As
adults, we do best to model language for children rather than correct them for their misconceptions. What does it matter that she is saying “tip” instead of “tick”. The fact that she is using the expression in the appropriate manner is not only heart-warming, it shows her understanding of language and self expression. For the time being, I let it go. At another time I will use the expression myself and she will pick up that the sound at the end is in fact an “ick” and she will automatically correct herself next time she uses that phrase
and her sense of self will remain intact. It’s not a big deal this way. There is a time and place for explicit instruction, yet modelling works best with young children. Later I responded “Okay. See you in a tick."
Children have an incredibly good ear for developing language and grammatical rules through our modelling. But when we constantly correct their errors, they feel wrong, that they are constantly making mistakes and being criticised. Be sure that when you do model the correct language, that you don’t deliberately place an emphasis on the word being corrected because that will have the same impact as correcting a mistake.
When Sabrina returned from the shops with the piñata (all imaginary) I helped her hang it at the level she
determined. I asked her if it was a piñata with ribbons that we pull (like at her birthday party) or one we had to hit with a stick? She told me it was one we had to hit with a stick and we proceeded to hit it very hard until she indicated when it broke and we both dropped to our knees, scrambling for the imaginary chocolate gold coins which spilled out (as they did at her birthday party two weeks earlier).
The truth it that sometimes we don’t feel like playing with our kids. There’s so much to do. I don’t have time right now. I am in the middle of something. I’ve got a deadline. I’m under pressure. Or we use these as excuses because it can be boring playing with our kids. Feelings of ‘I couldn’t be bothered’ or ‘I’ve done this a hundred times with you’ may emerge. That's understandable.
This game with my daughter took maybe 15 minutes and that was enough to fill her cup and mine. I made the conscious decision when I was with her that I was going to be present in the moment. I was going to engage 100% in play with my daughter and not think about anything else. Once I got into that space, I experienced love, joy and adoration for my daughter.
One thing that children can teach us, if we are open to learning from our children, is about being in the present moment. Don’t let this opportunity slip you by. When you spend time with your kids, make the conscious decision to be totally present and see what happens. You will feel like a kid again. Why? Because part of being a kid, from what I remember, is living in the moment and going with the flow. Even if it is for ten minutes. That may be all your child needs and enough time for you to have a break from your work or your own activities, and you will also be building a meaningful relationship with your child. These are the experiences and connections they will treasure and so will you as you think back in the future.
Please comment and share your experiences.