Philosophy Matters

Andy isn't taking easily to his new preschool. He wasn't having such an easy time of his last preschool. Previous child care providers for Andy have noticed he is one strong willed little guy who doesn't socialize easily with other children. Andy, unlike the other four year olds at his school, is often unwilling to follow the rules and be told what to do. This carries over into his playtime as well causing him to have trouble socializing with the other children. Even so, we know Andy can be a sweet, adorable child.

Learning you can't always have things your own way is an unpleasant childhood lesson. The decent from being center of the universe as an infant to a speck of dust on a planet in a universe of uncounted star systems is painful but necessary to develop harmonious relationships. Watching Andy struggle with this necessary life task can, at times be heart breaking.

What makes it so difficult for Philomena and me is we must choose an environment for him to learn this lesson. The director of the school Andy is having trouble in believes that children must first learn strong clear boundaries with little freedom. Once they learn to respect and obey their parents and teachers even when they don't want to, then the reigns can gradually be loosened as they grow. Being Unitarian Universalists, of course, this is hard to swallow since we prize freedom and self-direction so much. But Andy is not a mature adult and children must have more limits because of their ignorance and lack of reasoning and social skills.

On the other hand is my beloved sister-in-law preschool teacher who is much more willing to be adaptive to the personality and learning style of the student. Rather than requiring all the children to sit together in a circle whether they want to or not, my sister-in-law would be happy to allow the child to do something else. Every child grows at a different rate and needs to join in when they are ready.

I've visited Andy's school and spent a better part of the day observing what goes on. Most of the kids are quite happy to fall in line with the schools program and I suspect anyone visiting the school would be impressed. The director's love and concern for Andy is clear to me. But is it right for him? Will he benefit from the struggle to fit in or suffer? Is there a better way?

The two different philosophies of child rearing are not just mental exercises for questioning minds dealing with abstract ideas, which one we choose will have a dramatic effect on Andy's young life. It is an awesome responsibility which looms larger the more one reflects on the possible consequences. Neither philosophy perfectly reflects reality - will Andy be a casualty or a success of either one?

Philosophy making just as settling on our religious values is a serious business. Bringing the underlying beliefs we use to organize our lives to the surface can make tough choices even tougher when the beliefs conflict. Doing it with as much of our awareness and reason as possible is critical because our lives matter so much.

Thankfully we do not face these tough choices alone. Our shared love can help carry us beyond our confusion and uncertainty. I'm grateful for the loving support we've received from individuals in my congregation and our network of family and friends as we muddle through.

Rev. Samuel A. Trumbore Port Charlotte, Florida

The Andy Update