I just finished reading the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. If you are a parent, or are hoping to have a family one day, and you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. I honestly have not stopped thinking about it since I first picked it up. And, it appears I am not the only one...one of the bloggers I frequently read, Fern and Feather, has just organized a virtual book club to discuss the book. I'm excited to hear what every one else has to say about it!
A few of the main messages of the text are to reduce the "stuff" in your home, to minimize choices, to "schedule" free time, and to give children space to just be kids. I immediately started packing toys away and rethinking my decision of enrolling Jack in soccer soon. I am eager to change our home environment and our parenting style to help Jack, and ourselves, live a life filled with more freedom and space.
One of the ideas that has me thinking the hardest was introduced in Chapter 3, Environment. Payne comments that we've all met children who "believe the world spins to please them" and while they have every imaginable thing they are left feeling cheated and "world-weary". Her research has led her to the conclusion that "too much stuff leads to too many choices" and "all of choices are distractions from the natural - and exponential- growth of early childhood". Boy, have I been doing things wrong!
Even as I was telling David about this idea one night over dinner, in the span of a few minutes I had asked Jack if he wanted milk or water, if he wanted to take a bath or skip it, and what shirt he wanted to wear to school the following day. You see, I am guilty of giving Jack choices about all aspects of his life, believing that it is these choices that will help him on the road to become who he is. I thought I was providing him with choices which would help him to foster his emerging sense of self, his personality. Instead, allowing all of these choices is taking time away from his play and social interactions. I'm overwhelming him and wasn't even aware!
In retrospect, it seems totally clear that choice is not always a good thing. For example, on the mornings when I have Jack's homemade breakfast bar and green smoothie laid out for him before he even wakes up, he is content while eating and drinking them happily. But, on the mornings when I ask him what he wants for breakfast, all hell breaks loss and Jack sometimes appears to be losing his mind unable to make a decision in the face of too many choices.
I have a lot of work left to do. But, as you read this, Jack and I are on a plane and instead of discussing what we should eat for lunch and dinner (or worse, leave it up to what we find in the airport!), I stuffed our carry-on bag with a lunch of raw veggies, hard boiled eggs, and string cheese, a snack of fresh fruit and a mix of nuts and dried fruit, and a dinner of burritos, raw veggies, and chocolate chip cookies. Limited choices = happy and content child (let's hope...!).
Here's to a simpler life...