"Jaz, stop touching the sand. You'll get dirty!"
"Don't touch that bike, you'll get germs!"
"Eww Jonathan, are we really taking her to the park? It's so gross and dirty."
This was a typical day for Jaz: me complaining about every little thing she would do, especially when it came to her playing outside . . . or being a kid! I was just so anxious about her getting dirty because I cared about how people viewed me as a mother. I assumed people would think I didn't take care of my daughter if she got dirty at the park. I was also strict with Jaz's play because I didn't want her to catch germs from other kids or the ground. I was afraid it would affect her asthma. I thought I was taking good care of Jaz by being strict and restricting her play. But instead, I was hindering her creativity and stopping her from playing naturally and enjoying her childhood. I had this realization during training to be a Play Leader with Providence PlayCorps.
One homework assignment during job training changed my entire parenting method for the better. Janice O'Donnell, PlayCorps' director, thought it would be great for us to read "The Overprotected Kid," an article written by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic. I expected the article to help me as a play-worker; never did I think it would transform me as a parent!
I was shocked to find that I was exactly like the parents Rosin described in the article: parents who are so strict with their kids that they don't let them really be kids! Was I really doing this to Jaz? By the end of the article, I was determined to let my daughter play more freely and let her imagination run wild.
After making adjustments to my parenting style based on the article, and based on my work with PlayCorps, Jaz is now able to jump in the sand and do sand angels if she likes! She comes to the park now and plays with other kids. Sometimes she plays in the dirt. I even let her climb the gate, which I never would have allowed before. She swung on a hand-made swing crafted by PlayCorps participants. These examples may seem like nothing major, but I was very overprotective before I started with PlayCorps and didn't notice how I was inhibiting Jaz's play. Thanks to PlayCorps, I have realized how to loosen up my restrictions and to let Jaz play freely. Independence in a child's play is key to their development. I now know I need to let Jaz assess her own risks. I need to trust her – to know that she knows best how to play. Even if that means getting a little dirty.