“Every child is different.”
“Each child learns at his/her own pace.”
“Give your children space to be themselves.”
“The worst thing you can do as a parent is to compare your kids to someone else’s kids.”
I know you’ve heard these things before, right? I’ve always agreed with them, to an extent. Because of course we all agree that every child is different! At least, more of less. I tend to hang on to some idea that says “yes each child is different, but he’s still a child. Some things remain constant in every child.” Hmmm… not so sure about that.
More than once in the last 7 yrs of my experience in parenting have I been annoyed at that “comparative” mom. You know the one I’m talking about! That mom at playgroup or church who always has something to say to “one-up” whatever you might be able to brag about. Your kid is learning to read this week? Well hers learned a month ago. Your daughter can say the ABCs? Hers can do it in 3 languages. Yeah, you know what I mean. Those parents are so hard to be around! They make it incredibly difficult to NOT compare your child to “the norm.” Whatever that is.
I’ve struggled with this concept in the last year, more than ever. Cloe (who will be 7 yrs old next week!) has NO interest in reading. She’s known all her letters and sounds for years… I think since she was 2. But when it comes time to sit down with the readers and phonics and actually learn to read? NO THANK YOU! It’s like pulling teeth! It baffled me, because she loves to be read to. She will sit on the couch with me for hours at a time begging for “one more story.” I fully expected her to be reading at 3 yrs old. So, like a dutiful homeschool mom, I do my best to MAKE IT happen. I brush away her tears and reassure her that she will LOVE reading… once she figures it out. She moans and drags herself to the couch where we agonize over phonics, rules, exceptions, etc. At every one of my “great job, babe!” comments, she says “thanks, am I done now?” Haha! Clearly not her favorite pass-time. This has been going on for years. In the past year, we have had numerous friends, strangers and even relatives ask incredulously “she’s not reading yet??? But she’s 6!!!” They proceed to tell me how old (or young, usually) their child was when they started reading. Sometimes I can smile and say “she’ll read when she’s ready” but sometimes I think “what am I doing wrong?? Is my child broken or is it me??”
Brennah has been refusing to potty-train for months now. I started preparing her for it and moving towards it just before she turned 2, just like I did with her big sisters. They were trained, right on (MY) schedule, in a matter of days. Not Brennah! At every attempt, she would protest and thank me with little puddles all over the house. After a couple days, I would be frustrated and say “okay we’ll try again in a few weeks.” Same story. Over and over. For 6 months. But yesterday, something amazing happened. She ASKED to take her diaper off and use the potty chair. And since that time, we have not had a single accident. She just hops up and goes whenever the need arises. What happened??? I’ll tell ya. She was just ready! Before yesterday, she wasn’t. It was just frustrating both of us for me to keep pushing her to conform to a standard I was SURE she should meet.
That reminds of a great spiritual parallel… it will have to wait for another blog, another day.
So here is my question… what is the huge rush to educate, train, teach and grow our kids??? Why do we feel compelled to spend countless hours drilling our toddlers on numbers, shapes, letters, and potty training before they can even walk? So they can recognize numbers and letters before they turn 1… how does this change anything?? They are only little for a short time. I have a sneaking suspicion that in a few yrs (when they actually HAVE to be disciplined about studying, school, and life) we will regret not letting them just be babies while they can. I also suspect that spending time just making eye contact, holding hands, playing together, and making silly faces at each-other has far more impact than we realize. They will have to spend the rest of their lives being adults. Maybe, for today, we should let them enjoy the care-free world of childhood.
I have renewed my resolve to let my children be who they are. Not who someone else thinks they should be. Not who the comparing mom says her kid is. But just who God made MY child to be. They are perfect already… why fix what isn’t broken?