“I’m almost finished reading [parenting book],” the first-time mom confessed, “and I have to tell you, it’s really stressing me out!”
“Well, don’t read it! ” I urged. “Just put it away.” (I think I actually suggested that she throw it away.)
That’s kind of an odd recommendation from a parenting expert who has written two award winning parenting books.* But I meant it sincerely. It was the part about teaching young children foreign languages, Mandarin, in particular, that did her in and prompted my response.
There are a plethora, a veritable flood of how-to parenting books on the market. Every day heralds the publication of a new one, pointing the way to raising just the child you hope for. These books can play to a parent’s worst competitive needs and insecurities. Add the time you need to spend hunting for the right-latest-best-newest-most-eco-friendly-non-BPA everything, and you have a raging case of stress!
Raising children is a journey…more of a hike. I mean that in a good way. There are hard places, really hard places, parts where you catch your breath, some great vistas, and lots of cool stuff along the way. Like the hike, the normal developmental path of the growing child dishes up challenges (and joys) a plenty. No need to add ankle weights as you climb. If you’re not Chinese, you can forget the Mandarin.
I can promise you that Socrates’ mommy didn’t enroll him in philosophy class. Einstein’s mom didn’t use flashcards (to quote the wonderful book by approximately that title). And I’m quite sure that Mrs. Bell, Alexander Graham’s mother, didn’t fill his after school hours with electronics lessons. The chances that any of those mommies of the world’s most accomplished contributors read any parenting books is nil.
Since forever parents have been raising children. (Actually, they have been raising adults.) For years parents have been meeting children’s developmental needs, nurturing and educating them, giving them plenty of time to play, explore, and create, and putting them in a position to tackle adult life head on. Children have not needed or been given soccer skills classes at age two, academic tutoring at age three, and figure drawing at age four, and yet they grew into adults who lead happy lives.
How interesting it is that children in Finland start elementary school at age seven and spend the fewest amount of hours in the classroom in the world. And in 2006 Finland’s pupils scored the highest average results in science and in reading (and came in second to South Korea in math) in the whole developed world. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8601207.stm Do you think their parents gave them Mandarin classes when they were toddlers?
Through time, parents have used common sense, life experience, the village it takes, and expert help when necessary, to raise people who turn out just fine, even highly accomplished.
So, relax, slow down, cancel the Mandarin lessons, put the parenting books back on the shelf. Use them as needed and not as gospel.
*For the record, my books are absolutely fabulous and should be kept front and center in your library!