Give children opportunities to experience as much as they can

Iíve been seeing many of my old students all around town lately.

Iíve also been running into many of the parents I knew from Childrenís House for so many years. They all inform me of where their kids are and what theyíre up to. This is one of the joys of being a teacher. You get to stay in touch with families for years.

I love it. I find it fascinating that the kids I knew well from 1994 to 2004 who were 3, 4 and 5 then, are fairly grown up now. So, what theyíre all doing is a good indication of the path theyíre on, the interests theyíve chosen and the direction they may go. Things change, I know, but Iím astounded at the many different routes theyíve taken so far.

One kid is the big college football star. Another is on the presidentís list at a prestigious engineering institute. Two brothers are working in the White House. Others are on deanís lists at colleges all over the country. Many are very advanced athletes in kayaking, skiing, cycling and basketball. Two sisters are doing volunteer work in the summers in Third World countries. One guy is on the line at Zia Taqueria. A young woman who made me a mobile when she left Childrenís House is now playing jazz with a combo at a local restaurant. Another young woman has a possible acting career. Another, a full scholarship to college in music and singing.

When these kids were in preschool, there were so many choices ahead of them. Their families offered them a special environment and lifestyle, whether it was the sports and outdoors focus, or travel, games, friends and family members. Preschool offered them language, math, sensory work, beginning science and geography, music, art and friendships. They also spent time alone pursuing whatever interested them including projects, nature, Legos, dolls, artwork, etc.

All of these introductions and involvements through their school years led them to more definition, more focus on what they enjoy. They sorted out what they liked and didnít like. Now, they are making connections that may, or may not, lead them to their careers, their choices in where they want to live and decisions about their own families.

I think all we can do is give our kids as many opportunities as we can to have them experience as many things as possible. I remember as a child, my parents would not let me take the ballet class I desperately wanted to take, because I was already taking piano lessons and you just didnít do two things then. What a shame. My lifelong regret.

At age 20, this exploration is not over, it is just starting.

However, I find it interesting to see all the rich, varied and different approaches these kids are taking to their lives at this moment. Maybe this is typical of all kids now. Or, maybe it is representative of kids coming from Durango, this little microcosm of life. We so have many opportunities here. The world is at their fingertips. They donít seem scared. They are out there and having so many experiences my generation never even thought of at their age.

May they all go forth and be happy pursuing what they want, what makes them happy and what gives them joy. It will be fun to catch up with them all in another 10 years.

Martha McClellan has been an early care child educator, director and administrator for 36 years. She currently has an early childhood consulting business, supporting child care centers and families. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.