This past weekend while playing with the train table at the public library, my nearly two-year old daughter held up a bright yellow train and said, “Lellow train!” She was quite proud of herself. We knew that she knew some of her colors, but we didn’t realize she was getting pretty accurate. I held up a Thomas the train engine and asked, “What color is this one?” Her response: “Boo.”
We have had the same experience with our older daughter. Periodically, she’ll ask a question or say something out of the blue and we will have no idea where she learned it. Sure, my husband is trying to teach her to read, but we are certainly not teaching her about dinosaur species. So, when she surprises us with dinosaur names over dinner, we are both tickled and puzzled.
These little moments of discovery sneak up on you as a parent. Children are smart and we give them little credit for their own development and discoveries. With our older daughter, as it goes with most first children, we were focused on her every move. My husband and I realize that we cannot be as focused on our second daughter’s every little success as we were with our first daughter at the same age. In fact, we wonder how much we’re missing. And if we’re missing something, are we in control of what they’re learning?
For once, I am keenly aware of how little we control their socialization. As a sociologist, I teach about socialization (and I have been working on a post about socialization and gender but am still ironing out some kinks with it). I teach about socialization as a process that takes place with many actors involved, including, families, communities, peers, schools, and other institutions like childcare facilities.
It’s hitting home that socialization is a real thing. And depending on your work/life situation, you may have outside institutions other than family involved in your children’s socialization earlier than you anticipated. Like other working parents, we have help with childcare. We have been so thankful to find a good quality daycare facility where the staff really loves our children. The only day I ever worried about leaving the girls was their very first day. Every day since has been a non-event. The girls love going there and now their classrooms are around the corner from one another so they are constantly checking on each other. And while they are learning about colors and dinosaurs, about art and building blocks, they also bring home things we never taught them. Like Justin Bieber lyrics, thanks to one classmate with an older sister.
We want to celebrate the things they know, but I feel guilty that I’m not teaching them everything. Then again, there are probably plenty of things they’ll eventually know that I want no credit for. We’ve crossed a few of those bridges earlier than I wanted to because we’ve already had to explain death to our older daughter. She didn’t understand why her daddy has a mommy but her mommy does not have a mommy anymore. I did not feel ready to shake up her world like that. But after last week’s events in Boston, I cannot help but wonder about the things I’ll have to teach them before I’m ready for them to know.