Parenting is the most time-consuming job I currently have. With the Mechanic being away most of the time, I do nearly 100% of the training, discipline, and teaching. Even when we are back in a more traditional living situation, if I am able to continue being a full-time stay-at-home mom, the bulk of the child-rearing responsibility will continue to rest on my shoulders. I’m not saying that this is either bad or good, it simply is.
So lately, a recurring theme in the back of my mind has been the performance of my children. Are they hitting their milestones on time? Are they smart? Are they going to be ready for kindergarten?
I’m not sure if what I’m observing has been the case for years, or if this is a more recent development. I’ve written a little about it before, but I wanted to go a bit more in depth into this subject. I’m not even sure what to call this “topic.” Competitive parenting? Comparison parenting? Anxious parenting?
It seems to me that we are putting more and more pressure on our children at younger and younger ages. And, in doing so, we are putting more and more pressure on ourselves as parents. Here are just a few things I’ve been thinking of recently:
Kindergarten entrance exams. I never knew there were such things two years ago. I’m told it’s less about getting into kindergarten and more about knowing where a child is in his learning progress so they know where to start teaching him. However, I’ve also heard from another part of the state that there exists a list of things a child must know before they can begin kindergarten. From what that mom has said, it sounds like things I assumed kindergarten was there to teach, things like identifying letters, colors, and numbers. I assumed that if you could teach your children these things earlier, they would have a head start in kindergarten, but if they didn’t know them they would learn them that year. Not sure what the complete truth is, or if it varies from school to school.
Pre-school curriculum. More specifically, online preschool curriculum. I am getting ads on Facebook about abcmouse.com. This is some sort of “full online curriculum” targeted at ages 2-6. TWO! My child will be two in four months, and they have a curriculum for her. Not a manipulatives based, hands-on, fingers getting dirty “curriculum.” No, a sit in front of the computer, in a chair, moving a mouse curriculum.
Home schooling. I have heard quite a few moms say they are “home schooling.” Or describe themselves as “home school moms.” Yet, all their children are under the age of five. I’ve heard more than one mom whose oldest is three say they are home schooling, not talking about the future but a present action. What used to simply be “being a mom” now qualifies as schooling.
I used to be a relatively active member of an online forum on babycenter.com. It was fun being able to give advice concerning the symptoms and complications of pregnancy, seeing pictures of others' cute kids, ranting as only pregnant or new moms can do. After our babies were born, since the forums are divided according to due dates, the natural thing for everyone to do was talk about what their babies were doing. Rolling over, sitting up, first words, were all published for everyone to see and say “good for you!” This of course led to other posts from people saying “my child isn’t doing this yet, anyone else’s kid behind too?”
I finally stopped visiting the site. It was simply too big of a temptation to compare my Ladybug with other children. She wasn’t hitting her milestones on time, she was receiving early intervention services, and it frustrated me to constantly read that someone else’s kid was climbing on the couch when my child was struggling to roll over, that someone else’s kid was stringing three words together when my child was struggling to string together two meaningful syllables. So I just stopped going there.
Unfortunately, you’d have to lock yourself in a closet to not be exposed to folks comparing their children to others. I’ve had someone brag and brag and brag to me recently about all the things their children are able to do. How great their physical abilities are. How great their language skills are. How smart they are. My only comfort has been that all those greats are negated in my book because they are poorly behaved.
I find myself stressing over the fact my child cannot say a single color, let alone point it out. I worry that she can’t identify any body parts, although she does know where shoes are supposed to go. I get concerned when I think about the fact that the only phrase she can say only comes when she repeats it after me. I wonder if she’ll be ready for kindergarten. I worry that I’m going to forget to teach her something.
What happened to being able to allow pre-schoolers to learn by playing? What happened to laid back days of finger painting and play dough, crayons and glue sticks, construction paper and toddler scissors and self-cut hair? What happened to enjoying children just as they are without worrying about whether they are learning fast enough?
Not sure what the answer is, other than to just say no to comparison, no to worry, no to trying to fit my children into a grid on a chart. And to say yes to reading that fourth book when I had planned on washing dishes. Yes to continuing to sit with her in my lap so she can “read” the book back to me in her own language. Yes to smiling while watching her sit surrounded by books, carefully turning each page and intently looking at the words and pictures.