Thursday, January 8, 2009

Permissive Parenting

My daughter Runa is running in circles nearly as wide as her smile, bright red chiffon scarf streaming above her head, leaving a wake of giggles around the dozen other seated parents and obedient children. I have called for her to come and sing with mommy, but my own laugh belies my weak resolve to reel her back into my lap.

Runa, her twin sister Damian and I are trying out a nationally syndicated music class that is subsidized by a community church. Their best friend Jonah and his mother Katy have come for the fun as well.

"Runa, come here, let's stomp our feet together," I tempt. The instructor looks sideways at me as she collects scarves and tiny sandpapered percussion blocks from the other children. Not a single actual musical instrument is ever produced during this one-hour session.

A goodbye song is sung, so exciting that I forget it as soon as the last note falls. I stop to thank the teacher and inquire about tuition and scheduling. She effectively kills my interest in a second try by commenting on how unfair it was to paying parents for me to allow my children to dance.

"What does she expect? It's a music class for 1-3 year olds! We should be letting them explore music with real instruments - be free spirits. They'll have to sit still and stand in lines plenty when they go to school," Katy rants to me later.

I couldn't agree more.

We have to tell our children 'no' for so many legitimate safety reasons: no hitting, no running into the street, no climbing on precarious furniture, no playing with electrical sockets.

Why squelch their joy of exploration - especially in the arts?

Katy and I try different music class several days later. The instructor is surprised by our attendance - no one told her she would have visitors this morning - but she smiles and welcomes us to a large rug in the corner of a spacious dance studio. She learns each child's name and incorporates it in a song, stepping everyone up the musical scale with the help of a xylophone. The children get to bang on drums, shake tambourines, run, sing and dance to relatively familiar folk songs. No one is chastised for having fun; we sign up for the next 12-week session.

My girls will be two in January. I don't get to sleep late anymore. Rarely do I have the attention span to complete a book without colorful illustrations or rhyme. But then, all parents accept some minor tradeoffs. What I get in return is the opportunity to show the world to these fearless, inquisitive little people, and to say 'no' as rarely as I can.

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