One of the first things I discovered being a mom is that I live in a culture where being advanced is applauded. When Timmy was a little over a year old, a local TV show featured a 2-year-old genius who can write and read like a 5-year-old. My mom even called me to watch and said Timmy could also be like that. While it sure was a compliment from a grandma who sees the potential of her first apo (grandchild), it really got me nervous.
Clearly, that kid was the exception and featuring him was a great idea. But then it also added unnecessary pressure to all the parents watching the show at that time. I remember feeling so competitive back then but when I looked at my baby who was exploring, walking tiptoed, touching everything out of curiosity I asked myself, “Do you really need to do all that at 2 years old?” So I decided not to let that show affect me but I still couldn’t shake the pressure that came along with it.
As parents we all want our children to succeed and do well in life. But as I navigate this parenting journey, I realized that success is relative and it’s up to us to define what that is to our kids. I’m proud of my son and all the things he accomplishes—big or small. But I also realized that he can’t possibly do well in everything.
Advanced but not quite
Timmy may be way too advanced in reading but he still doesn’t color within the lines and he still finds it difficult to use scissors. Whatever big words he knows today will also be read by other kids of his age when they all grow up. We all follow the same curriculum guide from the Department of Education (DepEd) anyway and they will all learn the same thing down the line.
He may write fast and I mean quickly scribble the letters/words that come to his mind but he doesn’t draw the usual stick people, cars, or houses that most boys do. He’s unconventional in so many ways like going for bond paper over ruled paper, colored pens over pencils, paints over crayons—and God has been using all these things to remove the conventional student mold in my head, to get my cue from my child’s interests more than what traditional schools dictate.
Timmy loves numbers and reads them by the thousands and enjoys skip counting of even and odd numbers. He’s so fascinated with numbers that he even memorizes car plates! Haha! But he’s a careless counter. He loses track of what he counts because he gets too excited. He tends to skip pointing on objects or points twice at the same thing. So we’re still working on his slow counting. :) Slow, slow, slow like a sloth as Eric Carle would put it. :)
I need God’s grace to remind me continuously that I’m dealing with my child more than he is my student. And I guess this is something that every homeschooling mom struggles with, balancing our parent-teacher side. Every day I am learning to use his preferences as my teaching springboard to communicate with him more effectively. :)
Also, I have to keep reminding myself that he’s only four and to stick to what he needs to know at this age. I think it’s something that all newbie parents should keep into perspective—to never rush their kids, to enjoy every age and every stage. Because they really do grow up really fast. But that doesn’t mean I will limit him. I also have to be sensitive and follow where he wants to progress faster and at the same time rein him in if we’re going too fast so that he won’t get confused. :)
What really matters
I’m not an expert in parenting. I’ve been at it for only four years. And every time Timmy gets a year older, it’s a whole new ball game for me. Like when he turned four, I was so excited to know and discover with him what it’s like to be at that age again! :) All this time God has been repeatedly teaching me to be gentle and patient with my child; to listen to his thoughts and stories; to ride on his interests and leverage it for learning; to spend quality time with him; and above all, to draw Timmy closer to Him.
I didn’t become a parent to raise a genius. There’s much more to parenting than teaching academic lessons. The values and life skills our children need to learn outweigh the need to master the 3 R’s (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic). They will learn those things eventually because they have to. But character building is a different story. We need to be more intentional on this one because they NEED this more than academics when they face the world on their own.
No one would care how smart your child is if he’s such a pain to work with. No one would bother to listen to him if he’s full of himself. He may be smart and talented in many ways but if all he wants is to get his way then no one would follow him. Companies now even value EQ more than IQ because anything can be learned these days. The way you deal with people and your overall work ethics are given more weight than head knowledge.
A teachable student can only come from a teachable heart. If my son doesn’t learn about obedience and respect first then he won’t listen to me. There are values that he needs to develop before he could even comprehend fractions or geography. He needs to learn patience, perseverance, hard work, honesty, humility, and more to help him not just with his academics but with real life challenges as well. Life skills are learned more easily when they have the foundational values first.
Like for example, cleaning up his toys took repetitive obedience before Timmy got used to it. You earn cooperation by doing things together like washing the dishes. It sure takes time and a lot of wasted water and dishwashing soap but seeing my son beam with pride makes it all worth it. Last night as he went down his chair (because he can’t reach the sink yet) he said, “Thank you for helping me wash the dishes!” It was as if he owned the chore and I was just there to help him! :)
Those little things help in easy transition to learning like, “Let’s read together! It’s writing time! Let’s count together!” Because you get to him to cooperate and participate on non-academic things, getting him on board during study time becomes much easier. :) There’s so much more that our kids need to learn. Even us adults learn something new every day. So why stress out on getting everything right the first time or being ahead of everybody else?
At the end of the day, it’s never really about whose kid is advanced where. It isn’t about how many degrees my son will finish or how many awards he will get. I would rather measure his success by how many lives he will touch by his kindness and how many will follow his lead because of his integrity. It isn’t about finishing first all the time but about finishing well in life. :)
I remember my dad would always say about drivers overtaking, “Okay lang yan, sabay sabay din tayo sa dulo ng stoplight. (That’s okay, we’ll all meet at the stoplight anyway.)” Same goes with being advanced. Our kids will all get there. They will all become adults and converse like adults. But the question is, will they become responsible adults? Will they be part of a God-fearing generation who will walk with integrity? Will they be compassionate and kind?
While it may be great to have an “advanced child” let’s not forget to advance them on the things that matter. Let’s give them a head start on values and character building because those are the foundational life skills they need that will help them thrive in the real world. :) I’m still learning and growing in these areas up to now, which is why I recognize that my son still has a long way to go. And that’s the beauty of parenting right there, you grow and learn together—and it never stops. :)