But in order to leverage the opportunities of each phase, you have to show up for it. That may sound obvious, but it can be incredibly challenging at the same time.
It’s easy to get stuck in the phase that came before. It’s baffling at times when you realize your child isn’t the same person you thought you knew last year. When their interests change, or their preferences change, it can be hard to keep up. (Of course, if you have a seventh grader, they will probably let you know pretty fast when you make this mistake).
It’s easy to rush into the phase that should come later. Maybe it’s because we’re ready to watch a new movie, read a new book, or play a new game, so we stretch the age-limit just a touch. Maybe it’s because—lets face it—if we can get our son to shoot a basketball through a ten-foot goal when he’s six, we’ve earned serious bragging rights. But childhood isn’t meant to be rushed. If we’re always in a hurry to get to the next phase, we can miss what is unique about the phase our kids are currently in.
In preschool, kids need you to show up so they know you. There are more changes in the first years of life than in any others. That means the world of a toddler is unstable. It’s no wonder they need adults to step in and create some stability. The best thing you can give a preschooler is a familiar face. If they don’t know who you are, you won’t have a lot of success giving them anything else that matters—just think about how many preschoolers cry when they visit Santa.
In elementary years, kids need you to show up so they know you know them. In elementary school kids are fascinated with life. They are discovering new ideas and experiences every day, and they want someone to discover it all along with them. The best thing you can give an elementary-age kid is your fascination with who they are. When you show up for an elementary-age kid, they need to know you know their name, their pet’s name, their interests, and their favorite snack food.
So, whatever phase your child is in, remember there is something remarkable happening right now. This phase won’t last forever. Don’t rush the clock. Don’t wish away the moments you have. It’s just a phase…don’t miss it.