Friday, September 05, 2008


Last year, Andrew had a three wheeler big wheels type thing. Try as I might, I could not get him to pedal it. He would try and try to pedal and steer at the same time, but he just could not seem to do both at the same time. He would either pedal and steer off the sidewalk or steer and push with his feet. He could not seem to master doing both things at once. This June, he finally started to be able to pedal, but he still couldn't seem to master doing both activities at one time.

Although I know I should be patient and understanding, I found this particularly irritating. His friend Bea had been buzzing around on her trike since the previous summer, and she is only ten days older. His friend Lewis, who is an entire year younger, was already riding a bike. Why could my son not just get it?

So, although I liked the idea of getting him a bike for his fourth birthday, I was a little nervous. I wondered how long I would be holding onto the handle bars, practically dragging him around the block. But becuase I didn't want my anxiety to rub off on my child, I went ahead and agreed that we should get him a bicycle.

Four days later, we can ride all the way around the block. Although he's not a fast rider, he pedals and steers independently after only a few days of practice. He can operate the brakes, steer well enough to run over an apple, and get up to a speed where I almost have to jog to keep up.

This had me thinking today about development and readiness. I used to get frustrated with Andrew and think he was being stubborn when he wouldn't do things that I could see all of his friends could do. But then I looked closer, and I noticed that in some cases he didn't have the co-ordination to do it yet. The internal wiring just hadn't hooked up, and so it didn't matter how much I cajoled, yelled, threatened or argued -- it wasn't going to happen until his body and brain were ready, and until he was calm enough to follow instructions.

Our culture has so little patience for children. As babies they are subjected to endless checklists and developmental comparisons. As children we demand that they learn a certain rigid set of skills in a very limited, time frame, in an environment that often gives advantage to those kids who are practical minded, action oriented, and able to block out a lot of stimulation. Then we wonder why so many kids are being "left behind". Are they? Or are we just trying to drag them ahead of where they are ready to be?

I know it would take a whole shift in culture to do things differently than we do now, but sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be worth it to have a culture that is just more understanding and compassionate to children. A culture that is not so obsessed with performance and accomplishement at an early age. Then maybe we as parents could relax and enjoy the stage our children are at, and our children could relax and enjoy their childhoods.

1 comment:

Jen said...

great post Jill!!!