A Mother’s Day Reflection from Play Designer Willow Mellbratt

Kids can change how we view the world — for the better.

Willow Mellbratt
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Willow Mellbratt, Toca Boca Play Designer
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“I am always trying to catch up with my daughter.”

As a new parent of a toddler, this comment can be taken literally. But I refer to it in another way. Skye wants to climb up the big kids’ ladder at the playground. She can’t! … Oh but wait, she can! Where did she learn that? Skye wants to scale a very steep rock. No … You can’t do that, Skye … What! She can!!

I feel that I need to restrain myself from telling her what she cannot do, as it is only holding her back. The truth is she can do a whole load of things that I cannot. I am limited in my own judgment of what is possible and my own capabilities, or lack of.

The truth is she can do a whole load of things that I cannot.

While I don’t see myself as a particularly conventional person, having a kid has made me realize just how conventional my view of the world is compared to my daughter’s. Where she sees possibilities and exploration, I can sometimes see potential conflict and dirty washing. And this is what I’m trying to change in myself. To open up my mind so that I can see things more the way she sees thing. Because let’s face it, life is so much more fun that way. And I have so much to learn.

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Willow and Skye.

Kids in hunter gatherer communities are never told “No.” They explore, they are curious, and they find things out for themselves. OK, sometimes this might come at some cost, but humans are generally exceptionally good at self-preservation. Otherwise we would have died out a long time ago. In our modern society I read posts about parents who have “Yes” days with their kids. They are always surprised by how responsible their kids decide to design their day.

As parents, our desire to keep our children from risk is very difficult to ignore. I blame our evolution. If we didn’t have such giant brains, we wouldn’t need to be born so prematurely early in our development. Because of this, parents’ first introduction to their child is an extremely vulnerable bundle that needs us to do everything for it.

As parents, our desire to keep our children from risk is very difficult to ignore.

This sort of sets our expectations and relationship with our child, and it’s very difficult to get out of this pattern. Of course, it is also a designed event to make sure we nurture and care for our children, but in our modern society filled with fear of risk and parental judgment, it seems to have twisted a little.  Every day I try to untwist that a little so I can support my child to trust her own judgment rather than mine. Because that is one of the best skills she can have in life.

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