Parenting: The Freedom to Be…

After our recently dabble in abstract art, my SIL shared with me the video of Aelita Andre painting for inspiration. Those videos may have been intended to provide inspiration, but I found myself coming away with something else altogether.

There were two things that struck me as I watched Aelita painting in her parents’ garage. The first was her enjoyment for what she does. No one forces her to paint. The second was her freedom to express herself without intervention. No one tells her what she can and cannot do. When she paints there is paint being splashed everywhere – it’s on her canvas, on her person, on her surroundings. She is completely free to create.

I think of times when I have desperately wanted the boys to like an activity because it was something I wanted. When they don’t seem as interested as I expect them to be, I find I am the one blazing the trail with two weary travelers being tugged along in my wake. After a while, I get tired of hauling and I come to my senses sufficiently to let go.

Sometimes I think I so desperately want my children to be inspired by something that I end up overtaking them in the budding stage of their interest. The danger of too much parental enthusiasm is that it can bring about the death of your child’s interest as quickly as it takes to yank a young sapling from the earth. Watching a video like this reminds me to be more wary of accidentally taking the lead instead of following my child’s lead.

I am also reminded of the times when my sons are painting and how stressed I get because I’m worried they’ll get paint on the furniture or the walls. I end up hovering like a mother hen ready to leap into action. I caution every brush stroke that looks as if it might flick a bit of paint where it doesn’t belong. Even though I keep telling myself to relax and that any mess can be cleaned up, it is as if my hands and mouth have taken on a life of their own.

Okay, before you shoot me down and say that we can’t give our children complete freedom to make a mess, let me just state that I’m not saying that you should. I just wanted to communicate a point. The point being that there are many instances when we curb our children’s freedom to just be with warnings to be careful, to stop making a mess, or whatever. Then I wonder how much of those warnings are really necessary? Do they really need our warnings? Are we trying to get them to stop doing something because it’s easier for us in the long run? Do we demand a certain behaviour because it makes us look like better parents?

I like to think I’m the open parent who gives my children opportunities to find themselves and allow them to just be but when I think of all the times I interfere unnecessarily, I realise I’m actually a lot more uptight than I’d like to be.

Again I must stress, I’m not advocating taking your foot off the brakes completely. We’re parents after all and we have a responsibility to our children and the world around us. Therein lies the difficulty of being a parent – finding the right balance between being too controlling and too relaxed. It is hard to find the balance and sometimes what we think and what the reality is are also two completely different things.

Anyway, it was just something that got me thinking and I thought I’d put it out there…

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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