Hit Counter

3 Dec 2011

Too Much Of A Good Thing

As I kid, I remember coming home from a day of play and telling my mum about it. I used to tell her about the friends I made and the fun I had with the friends I already have. That still happens. It seemed like the most natural thing to me, until now. I go out, make my friends, come home and tell my parents about them. What is unusual about that? Right? 

I have been hanging about with a few friends with kids, lately. Incidentally, all of them have 1 boy each, aged between 4 to 8 years old. It has been interesting to see how each one raises their kid. Differently. Some of them are admirable, some make you wonder if you ought to give them a piece of advice. I don't anyway. I do not have kids, I do not even know how to handle little boys. I am the last person that should be advising someone on how to raise their offspring. I am pretty sure they would feel the same way, if I made an attempt to supply them with my words of wisdom. So, I keep quiet and observe in the background. Sometimes I grit my teeth, suck in a deep breath and turn my head away to stop myself from being a know-it-all. There was a little voice that had been nagging me for a while. I just did not know what it was about, until this morning. One of the said friends put up a Facebook status about being proud of her son for getting ready by himself in anticipation of meeting his friend. 

Off late, a number of my friends on Facebook seem to have had babies and my wall is inundated with screaming mums proud of anything their little ones do - from burping to pooping to proud mums who can change nappies. It's been driving me nuts. So much so that I've considered un-friending the whole bunch at some point or the other. Who knows if I might turn into one of them at some point? I'm not that now and I'm mildly annoyed that I have to put up with those updates constantly! Coming back to the friend whose son was getting ready to meet his friend. I realized that these parents seem to plan their weekends around their kids. I mean, I knew that before and I have found it overbearing at times, even though I could understand that they had to do things their children would enjoy too. What hit me today was the knowledge that they were, in effect, planning how their young ones should spend their time. They would make plans and expect the little fellas to get excited about it. Of course they know what the kids want and they know what is good for the kids, so it is not wrong. Only, sometimes it can stretch too far. 

When I went out to play, the most my mum did was to make sure I was wearing shoes and she knew where I was headed. I would play with my friends, in the playground, in the park, side-alleys... I could play whatever I wanted. I would come home muddied, scratched and dirtied, mum would help me wash up. I made my own friends, I played whatever game we chose. I was free to live out my childhood discovering things and doing fun stuff. These kids have their parents chart out their day. The parents decide how much fun they can have. Their friends are the ones their parents will go out with. That is, their parents' friends' children. "If mum decides to take me to Seaworld today, that is my fun day". No doubt it is fun. Only, they have never stopped to think if that is what they want to do today. Mum and dad don't ask either. Even if they did, the young fella probably wouldn't say no because he probably doesn't know his options or that he has any. 

Somehow, this whole thing feels so sad. The kids have never gone out to play without either the parents or their teachers chaperoning them. They probably won't until they grow into teenagers, when suddenly their new-found freedom is going to emerge from the inside in a burst. I may be wrong about that. Still, I liked the idea of just going out to play with my friends, without my parents watching over me and making sure I play right.  

I went to a friend's son's school the other day, to watch his performance. Before his son went on stage, a group of tiny-tots performed a little song and dance routine. When we did that in school, we would practice for days on end and then perform on stage. Sometimes we remembered all the moves and did the right thing. Sometimes we forgot. Some of us were born stars, some of us were nervous. Whatever it was, we did what we did. On this occasion, I saw a teacher kneeling in front of the stage and doing the moves that the children were copying. All eyes on the stage, were on her. I'm sure they have practised before. It looked good that all the children seemed to be able to do the moves, some well, some not so well. It saddened me, however, that they were all watching the teacher and copying her. There is too much emphasis on the end product looking good, rather than letting the children free to do what they have practised, on stage, as well as they can remember it. There is not enough emphasis on the children actually knowing what they were doing. No tests, just keep reading your books. No exams till the age of 10. Maybe I got the age wrong but that is not the point. How sad is that they refuse to tell children about failure?

A colleague with 3 boys between the ages of 5 to 15 once said to me that the system was ridiculous. No matter how badly they performed, they were told that they were good, so as to not hurt them. Even bad news was sugar-coated. He said it was pathetic that they had to soften the blow and hide the children from the concept of failure. This is not real life, he insisted. I could not help but agree with him.

In my growing years, I have met parents who have swung the other way and put too much pressure on their children to do well, emphasised far too much on failure. That is another extreme. Even so, I think I would rather know that I could do better when I haven't done well than watch a teacher perform and copy her steps, step off the stage to be told I was amazing and live the lie.

No comments:

Post a Comment