Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year's Wishes

Happy new year! I won't bore you with an endless list of tired resolutions (Blog more regularly! Lose five pounds! Organize closets!), but I will offer an apology for the stubborn radio silence in this space in recent weeks. I will try, new year or not, to do better.

We had a great holiday season, but it kind of kicked our tails, and I spent at least a week of December as a "professional kindergarten applier," meaning I filled out essay questions concerning R., myself and the four-year-old Grape as if it were my job. Sadly, I did not get paid for my troubles. (You can read about how R. and I, both strong believers in public education, fell down this rabbit hole here.)

Who knew my preschooler was supposed to have "civic involvement" at this tender age? Does turning his back to the crowds to do nature pee in the park count? Or tagging along to vote? He sure likes those flag stickers.

I had to write  about his hobbies and interests. I mean, sure, the Grape likes music, playing in the snow, going to the beach, toy trains, picture books, play dates, and many other things.

Seriously, though: What four year old doesn't like these things?

Do people actually put, "Junior enjoys cooking with organic vegetables from our garden, ashtanga yoga, visiting art museums, studying Chinese, and volunteering at the local soup kitchen." Wait? I was supposed to put that? Can I have a do-over? No?

All joking aside, one good thing about the rather surreal kindergarten application paper chase is that it forced me to think about what I really want for my kid. Those things can be boiled down to three wishes for him. (And since I'm not doing resolutions, I may as well do wishes.)

First, I wish him health. Many people take good health for granted, but if you don't have your health, you're kind of screwed.

Second, I wish the Grape will always be intellectually curious.

I feel like the Grape has the rest of his life to sit at a desk, and for the next few years, he should do what little kids do best, namely, play a lot. Blame my Scandinavian upbringing (where kids don't head to the classroom until age seven), or my own innate inability to sit still and/or indoors for long spells, but I've become obsessed with letting him be little. I believe imaginative play forms the foundation for lifelong creativity and love of learning.

Little kids have an innate wonder about the world, a desire to learn, a thirst for new experiences, that I fear too many adults lose. And that's a shame, because if you're not interested in the world around you, chances are you aren't terribly interesting to be around. So of course I hope the Grape grows up to be creative, well-rounded and thoughtful, and that he will eventually pursue a field he loves, but I think all those good qualities stem from intellectual curiosity.

Curiosity also drives people to constantly re-think things, to have not only the courage of their convictions, but the courage to change their convictions when new information becomes available (thereby avoiding the ancient and all too common you-can-be-certain-and-still-be-wrong conundrum).

Third, I wish him to grow up with empathy.

Empathy drives charity, of course, but it also makes people smarter. People who grasp where others are coming from make better leaders, big picture thinkers, and decision makers. In a society obsessed with the allure of the rugged individual, I hope my son grows up aware of the lot and welfare of others; his eyes wide open to social justice and injustice around him; and grateful every day because he is one fortunate kid.

How about you? What do you wish for your little ones as they head off into the world of formal education?

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