Disclaimer: My husband is an extremely wonderful parent and teaches our children in a beautiful way, and I sincerely thank God for him all the time because I feel like anything that is good or that will be good about my kids comes from him, but for purposes of this article I am talking about my parenting skills alone.
I was at the pediatrician with the girls the other day and had some sort of sickening realization: I’m responsible for teaching my kids, like, a BUNCH of stuff.
Potty training alone was (is) terrifying. I was like, “man, if I don’t do this, no one will,” and that thought, for the baby of a family, is scary and new. But then realizing that I’m solely in charge of teaching them the basics of life, like how to clean up after themselves, wash their hands properly, get dressed, do chores, be a polite human being, that sort of thing…it’s a lot to think about. And I’m not even into the teen years when you actually have to coach them on big life decisions and things like HOW TO DRIVE. I’m in the little stuff. What is wrong with me?
So this realization at the doctor’s office came because he was asking me if Simona is recognizing any letters and I was like, uh, wait…SHOULD SHE BE? IS THIS SOMETHING I’M SUPPOSED TO DO? CAN I PHONE A FRIEND? I’LL GET MY SISTER TO DO IT.
That’s not actually what I said. What I said was, “well…we’re still working on that,” or something similarly ambiguous. Then we rushed home and cracked the preschool workbook and I told her we ain’t moving from this spot until she identifies an “A.”
Kidding, kind of. But we did restart home “school” with a vengeance, which basically means 10-15 minutes of working on letters and stuff before she gets to watch her tablet. Bribery, I tell you. I’m really painting a great picture of myself as a mom, aren’t I?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m the youngest of five kids. Okay that’s not the secret. The secret is that I never much cared for watching children. Some people call it babysitting, I think, but given a choice between that and housecleaning, I would choose the cleaning job every time. Kids terrified me. They still do, sometimes, but less so. But I think it had to be because it was never my responsibility to take care of someone younger than myself. I was the youngest, the baby that was being watched. I only had to worry about my needs, or something like that.
So growing up, I had this sense that things would just be taken care of. Usually by someone other than myself. If there was something that needed to be planned, or fixed, I was confident that a sister or brother would do it. So flash forward to being a mom, and I’m looking around for someone else to do the dirty work, and realizing that hey it’s pretty much up to me. Cue personal growth (hopefully).
I forgot to mention that after our little doctor visit, I googled “when should kids be able to identify letters?” and it said somewhere between age 3 and 4 and I was like “phew, we have 2 months to learn THE ENTIRE ALPHABET.” But then I was reading on some message board (not usually a good idea) and there were all these moms saying that their kids could identify all 26 letters at age 23 months, along with the 6 bonus letters that aren’t in the alphabet, and that they focused on teaching letters every day, along with shapes and colors, and so on and so on, until I stuck my head inside a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and cried chocolate tears.
Once upon a time I dreamily thought I’d homeschool my children. I mean, my mom did it for the five of us, and it seemed easy enough (HA!). Besides, public school seems so scary these days. I like to feel a little bit in control (bigger HA). And homeschool gives you and your kids such freedom to learn at your own pace and in your own way, I mean…ideal, right?
But now I realize in a new way how amazing my mom is. Like, next level amazing. And I know that, barring a miracle, I likely will not be homeschooling my children. I don’t think I have the patience or the demeanor (or the selflessness?) for it.
The other thing that kept coming up on that message board was the saying that “every kid is different” and that they learn at their own pace, and each one has a different learning style, etc. Which is somewhat comforting. I guess I just need to find out how Simona learns best. I mean, maybe she is way more advanced in other areas and she just doesn’t have space in her brain to think about regular learning. She is too busy living in “character land”, with her eight imaginary friends, one of whom she is married to, and they have a child together named Bono. I’m not kidding.
Maybe I need to crack down.
Maybe I need to make her focus when I’m trying to teach her. She always starts drawing a picture on the side, or coming up with a story while I’m trying to cement a letter in her brain. But she’s three. Should she be focusing on book learning, or should she just be learning as she plays? I mean, she already knows so much and I haven’t sat down with her to “educate” her. I’ve just played with her. Isn’t that childhood though? Children are learning constantly, whether or not we realize it, whether or not we try to teach them.
Simona is amazing. Sure, maybe she doesn’t know her alphabet yet, but she has a stellar imagination, and she’s sweet and loving and funny and loves to dance. Plus, she’s an expert on YouTube videos. If you ever want to know how to paint a My Little Pony into a Cinderella Princess, she could pretend to tell you how. Simona’s brain is completely unique, astoundingly different even from that of her sister. Helen might know letters by age 2. Who knows? It would be a miracle, because she gets even less one-on-one playtime than her sister did. (I used to do some really cool activities with Simona, make projects and crafts and forts…and with poor Helen it’s like ‘here, hope you can figure out this jigsaw by yourself while I insert this coffee IV into my arm and clean the kitchen.’) But that’s just the beautiful thing about all of us being made differently.
So maybe I’m behind on this whole ‘teaching’ thing. Maybe I’m too lazy or selfish. But I’m going to keep trying—trying to teach her the ‘basics’, trying to enjoy her for exactly who she is, trying not to make her feel ‘less than’ if she hasn’t figured something out yet, trying to recognize the amazing potential that she has in this world and get her to do the same.