Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Optional Values

One aspect of parenting that doesn't seem to be a problem for me is the issue of shared or contrasting optional values.  Sammy has so many values that I don't share, and, frankly, don't understand (e.g., nail polish, tap dancing, Cheerios).  She hasn't shown much interest in numbers or patterns yet, something that would make her more like me and which I could relate to better.  But I feel no resentment or disappointment about this - not even a hint of it.   Even more importantly, I don't feel any kind of drive to push her into activities that are more in line with my values or regrets from childhood.

In contrast, her developing personality is a continual source of joyful surprise to me.  When we discovered her attraction to tap dancing, I was extra thrilled because I dislike tap.  Knowing that she came to that love on her own, with no influence from me, made it all the more enjoyable for me to witness.

I know that many of the things that look like values to Sammy now will fade away, or mature into things that I can't anticipate.  Just because she loves piano, tap, and fancy dolls now, doesn't mean anything specific for the future.  What I do know is that she is her own person - unique and individual.  This is one of the good things about the 3-year-old time - observing her developing individuality, will, and values.

At the same time, I know that her dad and I are influencing her choices and values heavily.  What videos I choose to show her on YouTube, what colors I point out when we take a walk, and pretty much every gesture and facial expression she observes in me, all will have an impact on her.  And those are just the Little Things.  Imagine how strongly my decision to send her to Montessori or to homeschool will affect even her optional values!

Her world revolves around her parents right now, and this will shape her future.  There is the explicit guidance that we give her to lead her towards non-optional values, virtues, preparation for life, and good habits, but I'm not talking about that.  I'm talking about the fact that we can't help but have a huge impact on her personality and future choices about even the smallest things.  And that thought gives me enormous satisfaction, as well.  I don't see any contradiction in enjoying both her independence, and her close connection to me.  And I don't feel like I need to construct any unnatural dictates to myself about how much I will allow myself to influence her.  These issues will get more complicated as she grows older, but, so far, I am at peace with this aspect of our relationship.

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