The end of the first term brings with it something I truly dread.
No silly, not the holidays where I’m at home with my children every single day for two weeks with no means of escape. Although, *shudders* that too.
“Jokes, jokes. I freaking love holidays with my kids” she says as she sits in the office.
What I have come to dread over the last couple of years is the parent teacher meetings.
There’s just something about sitting there and waiting for them to tell you all that’s wrong with your child. You know, because when someone else notices, then it’s a real thing. I mean for example, one of the things that drives me absolutely bananas with my sweet little boy is that he doesn’t flipping listen. I can tell him the same thing a hundred times and he just does the opposite, if anything at all. I know this is an issue (mostly because I’m going to run out of patience soon), but there’s something in having an outside party confirm it as a problem.
Just to clarify. Although I love my children with such passion that sometimes it scares me, I am not one of those parents that thinks my child is perfect. Far from it. I spend enough time with my kids to enjoy their many flaws alongside their wonderful gifts. I am also very aware of the fact that our teachers are passionate about what they do and use their years of experience to help parents help their children as they learn and grow. I’m also aware that they are making these comments based on what the “average” child is able to do at various stages and that everything is said with the very best of intentions.
With the hindsight of having three kids go through the same thing, I have become increasingly worried that maybe we’re expecting too much of our children. The expectation is that they need to be all rounders all of the time. Creative artists, avid listeners, puzzle masters, effective linguists, hoppers, skippers and monkey bar doers, all while taking in the wealth of information that their teachers impart to them every day and being able to remember it again the next day.
If they aren’t able to do all of these things simultaneously (with relative ease), then we have a problem and need to start getting in physios and OT’s and eye tests and ear tests and brain scans.
I call bullpoop.
Look, you don’t have to tell me that there are children who really do need this kind of therapy – of course there are. We shouldn’t be ignorant about real problems that need real solutions, that’s why we have specialists in the first place. There are many in our society that need them.
But we can’t expect our children to be really good at everything ALL the time! That’s a really unrealistic ideal to hold our kids to and we’re causing them more harm than good in trying to force them to be in a space they’re not ready for yet.
When I think about it honestly, hearing all these “fixable” flaws in my children strikes a couple of nerves. After all, I am their mother and if you say bad things about them, then it reflects on me too. I think that this is a pretty natural reaction, but once I get over myself and reassure my mind of their good intentions, I then start thinking of all the ways that I can “fix” my kids. How I can push them to be much better versions of themselves (whether they’re ready for it or not) – undoubtedly putting unnecessary pressure on them in the process. Because all we really need is another 7 year old feeling anxiety about not being able to recite π from memory.
I can’t help but take a step back and think, “When did letting kids just be kids become a bad thing?”.
If there’s one thing I can reassure you on, it’s that it generally works itself out without us stressing over it. Without us pushing our already over worked children into doing even more and enjoying even less of their childhood.
Here’s an example. Back when Kyla was in her three year old class, our very well meaning teacher told us that she never played on the jungle gym and that all of her muscles were basically under-developed. Because of this, we should consider doing a list of at home exercises every day to help, failing this working we would need to send her to a specialist to help her. It may be obvious, but we didn’t do those exercises because, well, we just never got around to it. At that stage I had 3 kids 3 and under demanding my attention and it just didn’t make the priority list (like many other things, but we won’t go there again).
Fast forward 3 years. Kyla is so adept on the jungle gym that we’re considering putting her in gymnastics because she enjoys hanging, swinging and jumping from things so much. She is perfectly strong and capable.
The key here is that she did it in her own time as she was ready.
To be fair, although we didn’t actively seek professional help or even do all the exercises that we should have, we did keep her exposed to the jungle gym as often as we could. We didn’t just ignore the problem and squirrel her away in a corner and hope for it to get better without doing anything about it at all.
Again, I feel the need to repeat that there is no harm in getting the help if your child really needs it. But guys, sometimes it’s OK for our children to grow and mature at their own pace. If they’re “struggling” to swing upside down on the monkey bars or read the words you’ve practised a hundred times, put that aside for a second and consider what they’re thriving at. Are they nailing 300 piece puzzles or drawing self portraits that would put Frida Kahlo to shame or ploughing through another good book or performing the perfect plié or doing back flips on the trampoline? (And what about all the emotional attributes they have to learn, those factor in here too.)
Then suppose for a moment that that’s where all their brain power is focusing and once they’ve perfected that, they’ll be ready to take on the new challenge of mastering the times tables or whatever it is that they were struggling with. In their own time, as they felt ready to…
Except this time it will click.