Children are entirely egocentric. From the moment they enter our arms, looking squishy, beautiful, and defenseless, we center our world around them. We protect them, we coddle them, we address their needs, we cheer their accomplishments. We do, and do, and do, and do for them throughout the stages of childhood.
In infancy, we must feed, bathe, change, rock, sing, coo, play, and live on their schedule. They don’t live on our schedule, because their needs supersede our wants. Our desires to grocery shop, clean house, cook food, eat food, take a bath, or sleep are not important. Well, they are slightly important, which is why we, as adults, feel like unbathed, unkempt, hungry zombies. The tiniest of the tiny tots comes first, though.
They grow into babies within the first three months, and continue to be babies through their first year of life. They learn to lift their heads, sit up, crawl, pull up, and move. They move, and we–their protectors–move with them. We run, jump, leap, and bound to keep harmful objects, and horrible decisions at bay. Our cheerleading instincts of praise morph into insurmountable pride at their growth throughout this first year of development. We learn to discipline toward the end of year one, and figure out what strategies work to temper the crank. And the crank happens, because, along with their fundamental needs, we inflict upon their curiosity. We force them to realize they are not the pinnacle of our existence, by teaching them to wait, to stop, to slow down, and to follow our rules. We, as parents, start to split focus between ourselves, and the child.
Toddlerhood comes into play around this time. Walking turns into sprinting. Hopping turns into leaping. One syllable words turn into full sentences, marked with intelligent thought. They learn color concepts, shape concepts, simple mathematics, and rudiments of the alphabet. We read to them, asking about character emotions, and character actions. We teach them multi-step processes, by expecting tasks to be completed in sequential order. Because of our conversations with our tiny humans, they begin to think critically about the world. They start to make choices, voice their concerns, and ask questions. We help them in their decision making process. We begin structuring discipline to teach them the impact of the choices they make, guiding them in seeing how their decisions impact others. In this time, we instruct elements of autonomy, as diapers give way to potty trained toddlers.
Then the preschool years begin, and we begin questioning not only our parental worth, but our sanity. Every day begins with a question–over four hundred questions, to be precise. Every moment is filled with chatter, because our tiny humans are thinking, interacting, discussing, and learning. Toys become smaller, and living rooms become Lego-ridden mine fields. This is a time filled with constant growth, not only in the mind, but in their clothes, as well. With the growth comes moments of endless joy, and moments of chronic meltdowns. We guide them through independent actions throughout this phase. They learn to complete tasks for themselves, without parental involvement. Chore lists are created, and they feel pride when we praise a job well done.