We live a pretty quiet, sheltered life here at our house. Our neighbourhood is full of children, but we rarely see them because the majority are at daycare or school all day. We go to the playground around the corner on a regular basis, and 99% of the time it is like a ghost town. We have regular play dates with a couple of friends, and of course forest school is great social time for my boys.
But, today while at the park with some friends, a local daycare showed up with a busload of 4 year olds. Instantly, Luke wanted to go home, and Lochlan was shy and hid under the picnic table. What were these strangers doing at "our" park? Why were they playing with "our" slides? But interestingly enough, my boys didn't want to stay and claim their territory. Instead they wanted to flee for safety. Many adults would label them instantly as being "antisocial". So what's a parent to do? Do I bring them instantly home and let them take comfort in their safe place? Or do I force them to stay in a place where they feel frightened and uncomfortable?
In Waldorf education there is a phrase that I have lived as a mantra for my parenting -- "Let children come into their world in their own time". It is a phrase that has served me, and my children well. So, I let my Lochlan hide. And I let my Luke get ready to come home. But I didn't rush to finish my conversation with my friends, and I didn't rush to make my children feel safe. What I was doing, intentionally, was gently letting my kids watch and observe what was going on around them. They watched the other children play. They watched how they interacted with each other and their caregivers. Lochlan was more brave and went to play again, albeit in the part of the playground that was furthest from the other kids. And Luke, despite his decision to be grumpy and cranky and stick-in-the-muddish, sat on his bike waiting but watching -- and I caught him smiling as he watched the other children.
When I was ready, we left. The boys couldn't get inside our house quick enough. To the place they feel protected and completely themselves. My kids have a wonderful childhood. They really do. And just because they don't have to go to daycare, or school, and just because their friendship circle is small, and just because they can get judged as "antisocial" by adults in our world, it doesn't mean they are missing out on anything. How lovely to know that they feel safe at home. How lovely to know that they don't long for, or yearn for, lots of other interactions with strangers. They feel fulfilled and whole without needing validation or acceptance from their peers--how rare in this day in age?!
It may seem "antisocial", but to me it means they are learning about their boundaries, learning about what and who they can trust, learning about meaningful relationships, learning about their own feelings. I love that respecting my sons, and respecting their feelings challenges me to evaluate myself... do I need to make my children feel uncomfortable just so that I look like a better parent on the surface? My own self-confidence cannot be based on the judgements of other adults, especially if I don't want my children's self-confidence to be based on the judgements of other children.
So, I will do what I always do... let my children come into the world in their own time. We will continue to LIVE life, and expose my boys to a variety of situations, places, and other children, and when they are ready they will step into themselves in all circumstances.