As parents and caregivers we are all to often caught up in preparing for the next stage of a child’s development. We spend countless hours researching; reading books or blogs or chatting with friends, parenting mentors, experts and, sometimes, complete strangers about what it is our children “should” be doing now or next.
Are the ready to potty train? Why aren’t they speaking in two word phrases? How many extracurricular activities are too many or not enough? Is she ready to read? Is he ready for a sleepover? Is it time? Too early? Too late? I have found myself crawling out of that rabbit hole more times than I’d like to admit. A lot of this worry gets director at my son, because he is my oldest. My first baby. The, sigh, guinea pig.
When he was four he wasn’t swimming and had no interest in swimming lessons. In fact, he flatly refused to participate in any extracurricular activities. No lessons, no clubs, no camps. For him, ice skating was horrible, no fun, and actually the worst thing ever. He told us that, in no uncertain terms, he would NEVER learn to ride a bike without training wheels and if adult training wheels didn’t exist, he would invent them.
So, my husband and I talked, waited, pulled back, and maybe even gave up a little. Maybe he just wasn’t the kind of kid who had the perseverance to do hard things. I admit to covering up my concern and disappointment with self righteous indignation in enrolling children in extracurricular activities at all. Why all the competition, I’d joke, what’s the hurry? For some reason I needed to make it okay that we weren’t pushing him or okay that he didn’t have the vaguest interest in learning new skills. It was okay, I’d like to tell my past self. He just needed time.
I had a revelation this week. A year makes a big difference. Sometimes they just need more time to be ready. Another year to grow. Another year to practice. Another year of experience. Another year to want to do it.
At almost 6, he’s in his second session of swimming lessons and he asked me this morning, “how many more days ’till swimming?” He joined Beaver Scouts in September and LOVES it. We asked him to go to the first meeting with his best bud and try it out. He reluctantly agreed, but came home after the first meeting confident and enthusiastic to “join up!” The Scouts went skating last night and he did it, happily even. He out grew his bike this winter and has requested a new one, without training wheels, this Spring.
I’m not so naive to think that he will always grow into my aspirations for him. I love the kid he is with all of his unique interests and abilities. What I have learned is to give myself permission to worry (where would I be without worry; my dear, sweet, old friend) but also permission to wait, watch and provide him with as many opportunities to start learning or doing something new as he needs.