I am on the road again traveling between training events. On my journey to Martinsburg, West Virginia Monday afternoon it occurred to me that Google maps (or Mapquest or Yahoo maps) may be a perfect analogy for the tunnel vision we often possess when educating and parenting young children.
As I referred to my Google maps printout of my journey, I found the directions clear, specific, and practical. Still, I felt lost, like I didn't know where I was. Internet driving directions get me to my destination without difficulty but they lack what a folded paper map provides: perspective. In the old days when I pulled out the AAA maps, I always had a sense of my whole journey and the detail I needed to get to my destination. With internet mapping, however, the focus is on the detail to the exclusion of the whole.
I fear this focus on the detail to the exclusion of the whole is often true of our time with young children. As parents, we focus on nutrition labels and attempt to provide all the nutrients our child needs in his or her diet. As educarers, we focus on developmental checklists and meeting standards in our educaring. And, yet, while all of these are ostensibly good for children this focus on the detail sometimes gives us tunnel vision.
In our tunnel vision, we miss the joy of simply being with our children as our parental angst increases. We worry that 5 grams too much of the wrong kind of fat will irreparably harm our daughters and sons. In our tunnel vision, as educarers, we miss the spontaneity and teachable moments that provide the best learning experiences as we worry about the ECERS (Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale) or state learning standards.
As I followed my internet directions, I knew that my next turn would be in 24.2 miles but I didn't know how long I'd be in Maryland or what was around the next bend. I didn't know why Harper's Ferry was significant. I didn't have a sense of the distance I was traveling or of where I was on this big blue planet.
As parents, we can provide the correct nutrients and have a child who never experiences the joy that comes from sharing good food, laughter, and family times at the dinner table. As educarers, we can have all the right equipment and the required labels on the walls while the children never experience the passion and joy for learning about the amazing world around us.
Perhaps, we need to emerge from the tunnel, take a moment to allow our eyes to adjust to the light, and begin to focus on building relationships with children. In doing so we can help children discover what they really need: love, happiness, joy, and curiosity.