Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Childhood takes a long time

From the start, school was wrong for Tiger. When she, Squirrel and Shark were aged three, I took them to a local nursery group to 'stay and play'.

So much went wrong, I barely know where to start. But for Tiger, the experience was fretful and troubling. She did not understand what she could do and what she could not. She could not understand the rhythms of the day. She was scared of the toilets and of the rough and tumble that went on in the corners of the rooms.

And so much was puzzling. The staff led her outside to an area they called the garden. The garden was an asphalt yard with toys, tumbling mat and a plastic slide. There was no grass, no soil, no trees. The bushes were locked away on the other side of the nursery school fence where the children could not reach them. The leaves were dense and hard and prickly. They discouraged anyone from climbing in. Or out.

After a few days when, against my better judgement, I lured Tiger there, she was more reluctant to go, and it was harder to make her. She said, in a louder and louder voice, that she hated nursery, that she didn't want to go, that she was frightened to be there and wanted to come home. At first I probably tried not to listen. But eventually I had to, and I wondered why I was trying to force her when it clearly wasn't helping her, or me.

And then we decided. We gradually withdrew from nursery. All the other children slipped away into black and grey and white uniforms. We chose not to send Tiger and her sisters to school. I took Tiger, Shark and Squirrel off to the woods and fields and playgrounds to catch the last of that year's summer sunshine.

Today The Independent publishes this headline. For Tiger, this was true.

Tiger is happily at the stables, learning how to ride. This is the first time she's stayed away from home, and even though it is merely a few miles along the road, the leap in her confidence and self assurance is as high as the sky.

For Tiger, childhood takes a long time. And I feel content that it should.

And if you are wondering what on earth can have happened to Shark and Squirrel today, I'll tell you. Shark is plunged into a world of sea stories. And Squirrel is playing in the wood.


Maire said...

Why when we are so proud as a species of taking longer to grow up than others do we hurry and vilify children for not growing up quickly?

Not you of course and not me but in general, like everything else to do with state education it is so unthought through!

The Gossamer Woman said...

We rush our children through their childhood only to regret later that it went by so quickly. I feel that way about my own childhood too. I felt I was never ready for the next step, but forced into it anyway. I have no good memories of my school days. I think I would have done well with a mother like you.

Anonymous said... - saw this post on Exmoor Jane's blog and thought of you. Might be something for the gritlets?

Angela said...

I can only repeat what I said to you before - I would have loved to have had a mother and teacher like you, Grit! There might be children who enjoy clear structures and routine, but anyone with a longing for freedom and finding out things their own way, you would be a blessing!

Grit said...

yup maire, i'd probably agree with that!

irene, if i could bottle the children's bizarre growing up discoveries about the world, i would. i guess the blog is the next best thing.

thank you mud. i'll put it on file! now i realise we were quite close last year when dig was exploring cables.

you are very kind, angela! (but sometimes i go beserk and make timetables, so the gritlets don't get it all their own way.)