Tuesday, June 4, 2013

developmental milestones through a cultural lens

I read two articles on the same day that, on the surface were on different topics, but left me musing about a similar lesson. I am glad I read them on the same day and I think people should only ever read them together because they compliment each other and make one beautiful song together. I am serious! One was about the developmental milestones American parents focus on as compared to other countries in the world and the other was about American perception on parent-child and child-child interactions as compared to a village in Kenya.

The titles may deceive but surely you can sense the ties when I give those little synopsises. As an ESOL teacher, I am always stimulated by cultural comparisons. The training I have makes me almost hypersensitive to cultural differences, awareness, and appreciation. I also have taken semester after semester of classes on child development, particularly in regards to language. A few neat take aways I got from these two articles:

1. I do not need to feel guilty about not wanting to play "ice cream shop" (a game Lydia invented which involves repeatedly ordering ice cream at a window in our house - imagine what passersby think! - and pretending to eat it) for more than a few rounds before passing her off to her brother to make their own fun. Kiddos are meant to play with other kiddos. Their imaginative play and boundless energy can only be matched by others their own age. I have other, numerous important jobs but being my kids' offical playmate it not one of them.

2. I do not need to feel guilty about expecting my daughter to share in the nurturing of and caring for her little brother. I am his mother. I am in charge of his health and well-being. But he has an older sister who he can also turn to for care. And he will one day in the not-too-distant-future have younger siblings whom he will watch out for. It fosters compassion and maturity. It will also prepare both of them to one day care for their own families.

3. I do not need to feel guilty about the different rate of development my children are bound to have. I do not need to agonize over what I did differently for each child that caused him or her to meet different milestones at different ages. The kids will all be fine as long as I raise each of them to be independent, productive, and kind.

4. I do need to encourage my kids to build trusting relationships with other responsible adults and their children, related or not. I want to my children to feel surrounded by a loving, caring network, even if they are not our biological family. One day, I'll be gone. Nobody can take the place of your mother but having another strong female role model in their lives will certainly help.

Points to ponder, my friends. Read up and let me know what revelations you have.

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