I have a confession to make.
I don’t really pay much attention to what medical science has determined is the appropriate age range for my kids to be writing thoughtful prose and reading Heidegger, and I honestly don’t sweat it when they take months longer to do certain things they I am told they should do, that is, unless your kids have done these things well before mine have.
The thing is, I am pretty sure most parents are aware that each child is different, but are afraid their kid’s difference may be a sign there is something wrong. Whenever a bunch of parents get together, we compare our children against each other. I have to wonder why.
For example, my daughter is an amazing and brilliant kid who can sing any song she hears, has a great knack for playing the piano, and will spend hours creating a single piece of art. Why is it when I hear about kids her age or younger reading really well I feel as though she is somehow performing below her expectations?
I am competitive by nature, that’s why. I have a hard time letting go of my need to have my kids be better at everything than your kids.
I have to let go of it though, because trying to make my kids better means denying them who they are. There has to be room for our kids to develop a personality. We have to let them become their own little people, with their own little tastes, while at the same time insuring they are healthy and developmentally sound. It’s a high wire act, with constant danger of falling off to one side or the other.
My daughter can read, she just prefers to paint, much like I can do math, but prefer to write. There is nothing healthy about me forcing her to sit and read for hours on end, when she would rather be painting, or drawing, or singing. So long as I know she isn’t actually having trouble reading, I should be satisfied.
But still, I feel that little niggle of unease whenever your kids walks earlier, or speaks sooner, or eats more table food. I also feel that little HA of triumph when my kids perform before yours.
I try so hard to choke the life out of those feelings, and to embrace what I know is true; I don’t want your kids! I am sure they are great, but I want my kids!! I want their quirks and preferences, their accomplishments and failings. I want all of them, just the way they are.
So I am walking the fine line between supporting their development, and smothering their individuality.
I bet I can walk it before you do.