Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Too much (choice), too young

Having a text conversation with a friend from S's school today.  S is driving me bonkers at the moment.  Why?  Well, she can't decide if she wants to go to the school disco or not.  I despair. It's an easy choice surely.  Go or don't go. But no, every day seems to be different. Yes, no, maybe, no, yes....you get my drift.

Today, my friend's daughter, M, spoke to S on my phone (how cute was that) asking her to come to the disco. She wanted her friend there.  Ahh...S agreed.  Whoopie! Dress sorted and ready for tomorrow. S went to bed.  Five minutes into bedtime, she's stressed out. She doesn't want to go to the disco again. Argh....don't go....do go...I really don't mind or care - BUT MAKE A DECISION!  In fact, it doesn't matter if you make the decision 2 minutes before the disco tomorrow as I've already paid your entrance ticket.  That's how relaxed I am about it but all this too-ing and fro-ing is driving me nuts.

Another few text messages between M's mum and I and something pinged in my brain with what our conversation was discussing. Not the disco as such, but the stress in decision making that our children were finding.  I began to think.

Now, at school they are allowed to choose their activities all day - more or less - with structured time in between. They can choose to play outside or inside and use lots of different learning tools. I know that will change quite a bit in Year 1 come September, but decision making is part of their lives at the moment.  Their day is in their hands, well, pretty much.

The girls want to do activities. S does 4 and N does 2.  When I was a child, we could do one activity outside of school plus one extra activity at school. I did recorder group in school and guides outside of it.  That was it.  I think when I was around 9 mum relented and let me do swimming too as I still couldn't really swim at that point and I recall having a crack at gymnastics and doing those BAGA award badge things. I'm sure that was in school too though - no overly expensive gymnastics clubs for us.  Oh, I did ballet too for about a term (they cut my ribbons in a performance when I was a piece of pink sugar and it upset me so much I didn't want to go back).

S asks me every day what we're having for dinner that night. Half the time I've not decided myself (I'm not good in the mornings and planning dinner when I'm trying to eat breakfast isn't my best decision making time).  She wants to know about activities weeks in advance and then, inevitably, worries about them causing stress at bedtime.  I've tried not telling her about things but, of course, being at school means that things are talked about between the children. Moving up to Year 1 was a bit of a stresser for her for a while and that was weeks before she'd even met her teacher or seen her new class.

N is a bit more laid back. Her school (she's at nursery still) have a choice for lunch.  She handles choices much better.  She chooses her lunch daily and her play as well.  She seems less phased by what's going on around her and just kind of 'cracks on with it'.

I recall my home life was relatively stress free.  Mum prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner and we all ate what we were given.  TV was normally dictated by dad after around 5.30pm but we could watch some kids TV before then.  I must have been older than S before my clothes for the day were not laid out for me.  I was never asked if I wanted a bath - I was given one once a week whether I needed it or not! ;-)  Mum bought me books that she thought I'd enjoy reading (I loved reading so they were all fantastic presents) and although I expressed desires for certain toys advertised on TV or friends had, I did not have a Wish List on Amazon (Amazon - what was that?).

So, I wonder. Do we give young children too much choice?  Should we just decide things for them more as their parents?

I'd be really interested to hear other parents thoughts on this.

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