I wonder often at these little people of mine, at how strong and directed their interests are, and from such a young age. Having chosen the less conventional path of unschooling, it has been a continual comfort to see clearly how hard it would be to stop them from learning about the world. I would have to do my best to limit their experiences, to stop them from accessing all the resources that are so readily available to them.
It’s a comfort because, as passionate and curious as I am about how learning happens, I don’t and never have wanted to teach. Not in the traditional sense. But this kind of learning that happens, this I can get behind. This I can be a part of too. This requires me to be around, to engage and to facilitate, but it doesn’t need much else from me. I’m not an authority in anything, just the Mama who helps when help is needed and who makes suggestions when it seems like some gentle guidance might be welcome.
Still, it fascinates me to see interests burgeoning that have little, if anything, to do with me. My daughter, who has long been mesmerised with the world of dressing up and of becoming different characters, my little Libran with her love of beauty, she has a very big interest in …style, perhaps? I wouldn’t quite say fashion since the concept is of course one she hasn’t a direct understanding of yet. But she loves clothes, and costumes, and outfits, and how changing the way she looks can help her become anyone she wants.
Today she has donned a swimming costume and helmet to practice her deep sea diving. She has worn her Merida dress and walked around with her wooden bow and arrows, requesting that I make her hair more orange, like Merida’s. She has put on all her outside gear to emulate Ruby in Ruby and Max. She has been naked save for a large grey blanket at several points, which is often also a mermaid tail. And she has been Belle from Beauty in the Beast, with matching gold shoes and crown
I’ve mentioned before at my initial unease…I would wonder if it seemed vain to encourage an interest in the way things look, or if was encouraging a tired and irritating gender stereotype that she should be ‘pretty’ or like pretty things as a girl. But we’re not into that as a family, and her interests are nothing to do with vanity or appearances. She loves beautiful dresses that twinkle and flow. She loves it if they twirl, or if they hang well. She likes the way her hair can match the colour of a dress, or the tone of her shoes.
She understands the difference between navy blue and teal and she marvels at the shades of each colour she finds. Her interest matters to her, so it matters to me. I encourage it because it brings her joy and because she wants to explore it.
I wonder where it will take her. If it will lead to a life filled with a love of clothes and outfits, or dressing up in some way or another. When I find doodles of dresses, I wonder if she will one day want to design her own clothes or work in that industry perhaps. If it will compliment her other love – ballet.
Maybe she will lose interest in these things altogether at some point – the extent of her joy will have been reached, a limit met and she will pass it over altogether. I can’t know, and although as a parent I also can’t help but speculate, it is reassuring to remember that none of us can know what we will want to do or be in a year, or five or ten.
That the choices most of us had to make when we were fourteen as to who we would be, and what we do, have little bearing on what our lives actually look like now. But I’m willing to bet that encouraging her love of something, anything, now is the best to way keep the fire burning for whatever interests she may have throughout her life.