Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The gift of a nearly perfect, delightfully average, happy child.

It's spring break and I spent a near perfect day with 6 near perfect children in near perfect weather listening to near perfect moments of silliness and insight and giggles and inquiry and problem solving and bravado and warmth and ...... and ...... near perfect kids being nearly perfect.
Because perfect children, just like perfect moments don't exist ..... and in the mythical Unicorn-like moments they do? They are very very boring.
Perfect, like many things, doesn't exist and shouldn't exist.
One of the many troubles of being attached to an anxious mind and a very soft heart is how frequently that mind is set a spinning and how easily that heart is broken. And tonight, a stranger broke my heart and tore apart the near perfect serenity of my almost perfect day. She, innocently and with honest sincerity, posted a call for advice on her "gifted child". This Mom, I'm sure full of angst and earnestly wanting to do the best as a Mother, had her 6 year old child privately tested and lo! her child is "gifted" .... 99th percentile of something or other in the smarts department and juuuuuust a hint of ADHD..............
O-O <------------ this is my face. This is my WTF face. This is the face I make right before I COMPLETELY lose my shit. It's the face I'm making right now. But before I begin said loss of shit, I MUST say "I don't know what to do about this!!!" I feel awful for today's parents being scared into being scared that they must have a 6 year old evaluated and tested and ranked, and I feel awful for the enormous pressure being put on children to be a very perfect at everything and sit still while doing it or else people think they have ADHD .............. because I gotta tell you, 'gifted with a hint of ADHD' sounds like every 6 year old I have EVER met. At that age, hopefully, every child is a cerebral synaptic tornado of learning and growth and terrible at sitting still. A 6 year old's whole job is to be a terribly restless, brilliantly absorptive, and sensationally global in every thought, sense, and emotion. They are perhaps all "gifted" but due to their being 6, should we really even begin to try and guess that? At 6 they are, after all, just a doughy, sticky, curious ball of potential ....... and their destiny unwritten. Their future is wide open and I would never want to hang such a weighty label on a person so small. It seems to me one must wait a very long time and measure all the experience, knowledge, love, friendship, creation, triumph, loss, breadth, and depth a lifetime can offer before one can sum up their "gifts". It just seems to me, at 6, they're not anything. Not yet. Why must they be ANYTHING just yet?
I must say again "I don't know what to do about this". I don't know about a world so determined to rank children. To set them on a ladder and push them up the rungs before they're ready, to throw them into the tepid pot of water before it starts to boil .......... so they never think to jump out*. I don't know what to do about a world that expects so much achievement from children but doesn't even bother to think about expecting happiness, or balance, or fulfillment? I don't know what to do about a world that demands children learn early how to achieve but not how to live.
When you first held your child, you exhaled a long held breath and whispered a thanks to the Universe for delivering this child into your arms. Healthy. Breathing. Yours. And in those first moments, did you picture a future in which that child would be graded, ranked, evaluated, pushed, and ultimately celebrated as successful ..... or what? At what point is that measure of perfect success or achievement realized? Or did you simply breathe in a sweet puff of that baby's exhale from that near perfect being and wish him or her a near perfect life ... long, and peaceful, and happy?
Ah. Yes, you remember now .......... don't you?
Please resist the urge to compare, rank, evaluate, or even unravel the mysteries of the gifts your child holds inside them. Please. Unless your child is having a specific challenge, don't push. If there are areas of their development they are struggling with, help them of course. But don't make it a habit to push a child in directions they are ALREADY going. If they are bright, then they will be bright without you piling on advanced programming and accelerated syllabi. Educate yourself on appropriate developmental milestones for not just their intellectual growth but for their social/emotional well being, fine motor, gross motor, ways of knowing, and resilience. Consider them all important. You will probably discover it's more important for a 6 year to be able to make and keep a friend than to make the perfect letter 'e'. Worry less about the stuff they could 'potentially learn early' and more about all the many things they might fall behind on, or miss out on, or worse of all fail to take pleasure from if they aren't given the chance to try.
Our school system here in Canada isn't perfect. Never has been, never will be. But it's based on this beautiful and noble idea that if we give every child the same well rounded knowledge and experience then they will come out the other side happy, and knowing enough to know a little about everything and a lot about who they are. It's a dream ....... a goal ......... an important solution to this problem of balancing a future full of open doors with a slow enough pace to enjoy and appreciate what's behind each one. We know a school aged child's mind won't be ready to see that, so maybe the gift is teaching them nothing more than to be curious enough to open lots of doors and wise enough to figure out the ones to walk through. Send them to school. Just school. Let them fail and pass, let them make friends and lose them, let them take piano and quit piano, let them get bored and then curious, let them lead and get lost, let them teach what they know and struggle to learn what they don't. You can't expect to find a school or program which will perfectly fit your child any more than your child will ever perfectly fit a school or program ....... kids are each too unique for that. Don't worry about the gifts you're supposed to know they have, you can't know what they don't yet. So instead try your best to give them the gifts like curiosity, resilience, appreciation, honour, friendship, engagement, contentment, and happiness. Don't worry, you won't be perfect at it. Parenting is really hard. I mess up daily. I make a huge regrettable mistake weekly at least. I hope there is a gift in that too. We keep going. Our goal is 'delightfully and happily average' and hopefully they will be perfect at that.

"All kids are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others." ~ Michael Carr

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." ` Albert Einstein 

*Refers to this:

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