A couple of days a week, I nanny while I am here in the city. I work with a 5 month old baby and a 4 year old kiddo. When I work with the 4 year old, we are also tasked with learning some English which basically means that I insist on speaking English with him (because he understands more than he lets on) and when I need to I switch to German (which helps my German out for sure) and I insist that he says things to me in English when he can. Please and Thank you take top priority here. We do this while we are playing at the playground or reading books in the library, etc.
The other day the 4 year old and I were at the playground running around and at one point I came around the corner to see him standing at the play structure, staring up to a different level. I watched him watch the older boys play for a little while. He was taking everything in. He was pondering and watching. He was calculating what they were up to and how they were doing it. These older boys must have been about 8 or so and could do things that the littler 4 year old could only imagine as they jumped from place to place.
It definitely struck me then that these kiddos are watching everything that we do around them. Of course this isn’t news to me. I have watched as my amazing nieces and nephews say and do things that they have seen other say or do. When I went home over Christmas last year I was playing a game with my older niece, Maiava and when I accomplished something in the game she surprised me by exclaiming, “You go, girl!” She squealed it with such delight that all I could do was beam back at her. I felt like I had really accomplished something and it tickled me to hear her exclaim with such joy. She must have heard someone encourage her this way and she repeated it to me. They absorb so much!
The 5 month old that I work with is absorbing things by the moment. Her world expands with each new discovery of a hand or toy or foot. Her learning curve is steep and it is fun to see what she has picked up in the few days I don’t see her each week. Each week her world and our world is changing with her around. I watch her work it out minute by minute. Her toys change before her eyes as she realizes what she can do with them.
All of this to say that we have a great responsibility in our day to day and moment by moment in the shaping of our world by who is watching us create and mold it. Our world is changing by how we model to the next generation. I admire people like my brother and sister in law who are raising two boys and know deeply that they are raising two white men with privilege built in and they know the importance in how they raise them. How they/we raise these boys will create difference in the world. This is true all over the world. How will you influence the generation that is watching you so closely?