When my eldest child was about to start prep, I attended a seminar with transition expert Leonie Tambyn from Guiding Transition speak about how to make sure my child was best ready to start school. I remember among the many great things she told the audience, one specific thing was, to not get caught up in the competitiveness of parents.
“My Child does karate three times a week; he is 4 and is a Black Belt. My child plays Aus Kick and they think they have potential for AFL so I have hired a personal trainer, my child plays the saxophone, speaks Japanese and dances three times a week.”
I made my mind up that night to never compete with other parents and I was just going to ride the wave with my own child. And that I did! I was not the least bit affected by the winter trips parents would specifically take to the snow to increase their child’s skiing skills, or the fact they were doing three acting classes a week so their child would have a chance to audition for Matilda.
As my children got older, they developed their own interests, acting, public speaking, basketball, karate, cricket, swimming, violin, Chinese, singing, computer coding, and that was just the start of it. Opportunities would present themselves. Of course, as I am the parent who wants to give their child every opportunity I didn’t have, I would say yes, lets do it. I was certainly not being pushy, it was my child saying they wanted to do these things, and they were genuinely interested.
But I could not help hear that little voice inside me say, “Am I working them too hard, are our days filled with activities and me driving around?” Isn’t school enough?’
I realised I was not competing with other parents; I was competing with my own childhood issues.
My mum was a single mum who worked two or even sometimes three jobs at once just to keep me clothed and have a roof over my head. It was only once I became a parent that I realised how much hard work she put in. The school I went to didn’t offer all of these choices. Or at least I didn’t know about it because if the newsletter came home saying “Does your child want to sign up for violin lessons?” Mum would not have been able to afford it. I went to a school that offered drug dealing as an elective! Or at least it was career choice; if you get my drift.
Am I too caught up in fixing my own childhood issues – maybe yes. By giving my children every opportunity possible, does not mean I am the pushy mum. I don’t force my children into anything they don’t want to do. They express the interest. But my question is; can a child survive out there in the world and become an adult in 2027, if they don’t speak two languages, play an instrument and have the footy or dancing skills of a professional?
Will they still have the opportunity to become a successful well-adjusted adult if they don’t have these extra skills under their belt? Or will they feel inferior when they are sitting around the bar at “Friday night drink” and everyone will be bragging about their fencing skills, and they have no idea what “En garde” means? Are we in fact creating a bigger gap between the haves and have nots? Is this generation with all these extras skills, becoming a super generation?
Or maybe it’s like a recent parent I met at a violin recital. While the teachers were explaining the technical things our children had just learnt, I was sitting there thinking, “What the hell is a Staccato?” I turned to the parent next to me and asked, ‘what’s that?’ I assumed everyone else in the room had no idea like I did, but I was sitting next to a parent who also had violin lessons as a child and knew exactly what was going on, yet they never play as an adult. Was their entire childhood violin practice worth that moment of bragging?
Or the day I was with a journalist at a music studio and they sat at a piano and played like Mozart, yet they now never play at all.
Will it really ever matter to our child’s life if we as parents now dedicate our whole Saturdays to the extra activities, plus drive around until 9.30pm at night to pick them up from the late night indoor cricket group they belong to during winter, because the summer group is just not enough?
Am I doing all of this so one day when my child goes on his first date, and they see the cello covered in dust in the corner, they ask him to play and that’s how he wins over their heart? Or do I want my children to be a Kevin Rudd and just whip out a full on Chinese conversation in a meeting?
Are we just going too far as parents? Have we as parents created a world where in 2027 it won’t be enough to be good at a few things, we have to have so many skills that at 17 our resume is already full?
I mean I have turned out okay in my adult years; I didn’t have swimming lessons until I was 10. I still can sing along even though I was never in a choir and I still loved Paris even though I can’t read and write French. I can debate someone with a strong argument and I have never been in debate team and I can still stay out and party all night dancing and I have never taken a dance lesson.
But is my forever challenging weight problem due to the fact that I had three and half sessions of netball my whole life as my mum worked Saturday mornings and could not take me to a game or training?
I’m not trying to teach you how to suck eggs as a parent, I’m just pondering the questions out loud and asking you to think..
Anyway, while I keep thinking of my answers, I better go and get in the car, I’m off the take my child to choir practice at 7.30am twice a week.
Hang on…I don’t even think I even know any slightly well-adjusted adults who were in the school choir!