Not so long ago, someone I am close to commented that everything we do for children up through age three is actually for the parents. I know she did not mean “everything” literally. She couldn’t have. I have seen her play with my children, and she certainly understands that this is valuable to all 3 of them – not just the one over the age of 4. What I believe she meant (in context) was that birthday parties….and trips to Sea World… are really for the parents – unless the child is over the age of 4.
And you know, if I had never been a Mommy to M, I might have agreed. His brothers like attention as much as any other kid, but they also seem as content with a party of 5 as one of 20, as long as there’s ice cream and cake. M, however, is different. He loves to party – and always has – very nearly since the day he was born. And here’s the thing – for M, the more people there are, the better he likes it.
Mr. Coffee and I took him to parties, restaurants, festivals, and art openings when he was still small enough to attend wearing a basic black Baby Bjorn. We went to far more of these activities than we would have left to our own devices. And we did it because it made M very happy.
So, while M may not be able to remember all of these events, I do think it mattered to him. It mattered that we were responsive to his personality, his desires, and his inherent temperament. I believe it built trust for us and confidence in himself.
I could be totally off-base, of course, but I like to believe that our ability to put ourselves out of our comfort zone so that he could be in his own had a huge impact on him. In fact, up until age 4, he was deliriously happy. After that age, life threw him various curves – his nightly shot, his angry introduction to his brother, the death of pets and loved ones, and I believe that those 4 deliriously happy years gave him a well of self to draw from. Those years may always be the base of who he is. Honestly, I hope so.
So what about you? What do you think matters to children under the age of 4? How has it varied for the children in your life?