Like a kid in a candy store I was eagerly awaiting Friday. I was so excited I had butterflies in my stomach. My three preschool aged grandkids were coming over and I couldn’t wait to spend time with them.
Friday finally arrived. Three energetic and loud grandkids came bouncing into our home and the next few days became a blur. To be honest, within a few short, but what seemed like long hours I wanted to take the ‘batteries’ out of them! They showed no signs of weakening while both my husband and I were wondering how we were going to get through the next few days with the level of energy the kids promised to demand of us. As a grandparent, it’s easy to forget the amount of ‘work’ preschoolers are. That night I silently asked God to give me the energy and perspective I needed to make the most of our time together. I knew from experience that time would evaporate and someday I would miss all the things preschool years bring, not only to them but also to me!
Brain development suggests that though preschool years are ‘work’ and might appear insignificant, but what our kids need as well as what we do for them every week helps establish life-long values.
When they’re eager to help and can’t wait to wash the dishes, set the table, sweep the floor, dress themselves as well as use the potty, it’s a reminder that they’re designed to find significance by working.
While they exert independence and demand ‘me do’, it might feel like we’ve lost control, but it’s a reminder that they need us to build their confidence by affirming their efforts as well as make them feel safe when they fail.
When bedtime becomes a war and their excuses outweigh our patience, their very rapidly growing bodies are relying on us to ensure they get proper rest.
When their unfiltered words leave us stunned as well as stumped, it’s a reminder that the foundation for future vocabulary is being built now and that words are experiments that evoke reaction more than having meaning.
When they navigate our cell phone and I-pad faster than we do, it’s a reminder that they’re drawn to screen time and that we need to set boundaries so they have positive exposure and develop healthy habits.
When we see them do a lot of 'firsts' and we recognize that with every blink they’re growing up faster than we want them to, it’s a reminder that their brain is designed to create new connections and pathways faster than any other stage of life. They need us to introduce and REPEAT new and positive experiences NOW.
When they’re excited to see our friends as well as other familiar faces, it’s a reminder that they need a loving community of people to give them a sense of belonging.
When we introduce them to their body and teach them their proper names (including their private parts) we help them create a positive view of their body.
When their play dough and crayon creations drastically vary from day to day, it’s a reminder that they live in the present and art is an expression of how they feel now.
When they insist on playing and we’re too busy to engage, they’re trying to tell us they want to feel ‘connected’.
They might surprise us by using adult vocabulary while still having temper-tantrums and meltdowns... it’s a reminder that they really don’t know how to regulate emotions in spite of their adult-like behavior.
When they get sick and throw up and we can’t stomach the smell or mess, they just want us to hold them so they feel better.
When they spill and break things they want us to be patient with them and know that they’re learning how to control their fine and large muscles.
When you catch them talking, acting and imitating everything we do, it’s a reminder that what we model has more power than what we demand them to do.
When they enter the world of imagination and the kitchen towel becomes a super-hero cape and our living room furniture is converted to a tall building, they’re begging us to give them space to explore without ridicule.
When they bombard us with a series of ‘whys’, it might be annoying but it’s a reminder that they’re eager to discover how the world works and they trust us to keep their sense of wonder alive!
When they're older and alone and you find them sucking their thumb as well as twisting the corner of their funky smelling blanket … it’s a reminder that they still need YOU to make them feel safe and secure.
When they test our limits and we respond consistently with discipline and love, we make them feel safe as well as teach them to trust authority.
In spite of our best efforts to trick them into something new, when they insist on watching the same video or reading the same book repeatedly, they’re trying to feel safe by experiencing a familiar story.
When we're sleep deprived and exhausted it's a reminder that we need to surround ourselves with a community of people that can help us through this phase because our preschoolers need a healthy version of us.
Trust me, even though it seems impossible now, you will get through this phase - I did. From experience I can vouch that it's easy to lose sight of the powerful opportunities every day brings to shape our preschooler when we're busy parenting. The fact is, in 260 weeks the preschool phase will end...the things they do and how we respond to them during those weeks are building blocks for a strong future foundation, even though we may not see the results now.