Thursday, February 18, 2016

Preschool Peer Pressure

After the cold, wet weather last week, playing in the warm (50+ degrees) sunshine has been therapeutic. A mom of one of Jackson's friends texted me yesterday to ask if we wanted to meet at the park after school. I consider myself to be a pretty laid back parent, but this particular mom makes me look uptight. I am in no way a helicopter parent, but this woman appears so relaxed about everything.

Jackson was excited to play with his friend, even after spending four hours at school together.
I have no idea why his friend had an umbrella
Between the two of us, we have six kids under five. The six kids played on the playground and in the wet sand. The older boys wanted to go exploring, so we set out for the trails. Thankfully I keep the wagon in the back of the van at all times, even though I only use it once a month. The kids chose to walk almost the entire time, but it was a relief to have it as back up.

The kids collected large sticks and went "fishing" for leaves in a creek. I trust the trio more now, but it still made me nervous that they could so easily tip over if they leaned too far over the boardwalk.

We continued walking the trails. Jackson and his friend would walk farther ahead, then stop and wait for their younger siblings to catch up. This repeated for a few times, until they got so far ahead they were completely out of eyesight. There are a few intersections on the trails where you could turn left, right, or go straight. We were yelling for the boys but could no longer hear them. I've taken the kids to this park dozens of times and Jackson tends to be a cautious kid. I wasn't in panic mode, but I was definitely getting anxious. I made the kids sit in the wagon so I could walk faster. The other mom and I split up. I found Jackson and his friend by the lake.

As soon as we were within eyesight, Jackson ran towards me talking a mile a minute! He said something along the lines of "I told him we needed to wait on our family but he kept walking and then we didn't know which way to turn so I said we needed to stop or we would get lost but he said to keep going that he knew where to go and then we were in the woods and I couldn't find you so we got to the lake and I stopped because I knew we should have stopped when we had kept going." And then he took a breath.

I initially wanted to scold Jackson and his friend but clearly Jackson was just as worried and knew he should not have left us. This was likely Jackson's first experience with peer pressure. It turned out to be a good lesson in trusting your instinct and not following someone if you feel like it's wrong. In addition to teaching about peer pressure, I was able to discuss the importance of staying within eye sight. We all stayed together the final leg of the trail. First, we played by the lake.

It is important to me that the kids have opportunities to explore outdoors on their own, but not at 4 years old in a 37 acre park. (Yes, I did just look up the acreage.) Most of childhood memories revolved around exploring the vast woods we were fortunate enough to grow up on. I try to follow the kids' lead and let them walk ahead a bit, giving them space to climb rocks, pick flowers, and collect sticks. I'm already finding it tough to balance giving the kids independence and protecting them from bumps, bruises, and now getting lost in the woods.

There are so many life lessons I need to learn as a mom and teach to my children. This mothering business is not to be taken lightly!

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