Genus Saber Toothus
Nevertheless, the mothers in the waiting area chatted excitedly as they watched their offspring through a windowed wall. The talk shocked me, frankly. They gushed about being the stewards of god given talent and they enthused over how much the tiny tots looooove their class, though the window revealed that one child was staging a coup by sitting cross legged on the floor and refusing to budge. Another child expressed her opinion of this behavior by delivering a swift kick to the slender shins of the malcontent. The teacher was unfazed though. She picked the child up off the floor, planted her firmly on her feet, and then calmly positioned her limbs into a fairly recognizable ballet posture.
People, there are not enough drugs or dollars in the world....
But anyway, the parents seemd unfazed as well and the talk continued with scarcely a pause. One older woman said, "My granddaughter is learning her sixth language and her not even THREE years old!" The other mothers were duly impressed but all I could think was...
"In God's name...WHY???"
Honestly, what need has an almost three year old of six languages? Or ballet, for that matter. I'm not disputing the value of either one, but at THREE? Three year olds should be blowing bubbles and coloring outside the lines and eating play-doh. They should be chasing rainbows, wishing on stars, blowing dandelion fluff into the wind. Their days should be filled with whimsy and magic and make-believe.
The thought of an almost three year old being drilled on verbs and tenses and the like makes me a little ill, frankly. A lot ill. It smacks of abuse if you want to know what I really think. It brings to mind a whole new classification of Tiger Mother. These women are SABER TOOTHED Tiger Mothers. I turn back to the windowed wall and watch the tiny twirling little forms with a new perspective. And I find that I am terribly, terribly sad for these little girls.
Their mothers would probably be surprised to know that. They would probably question the value of chasing rainbows if I explained my sorrow. They would probably wonder about my parenting skills and how my kids are faring in the excelling department.
It's not that I don't want great things for my boys. I do. Because I know they are capable of greatness; both of them, in different ways. But if you cultivate greatness with too much vigor, I think you end up with just the opposite. Because nobody wants to think they have no choice but to excel in life, especially not at three, or five, or nine or even sixteen. That's a lot of pressure and pressure, as we know, foments rebellion. And rebellion against being great means being mediocre.
Mediocrity has it's appeal and its benefits. Average isn't so bad. But unrealized potential is a real tragedy; one I hope to avoid with my boys.
There are some basic things I want for them. Anything above and beyond those things is a bonus; sort of like collecting $200 when you pass go in Monopoly. In the game of life you collect a lucrative career, professional esteem, a stellar reputation. And if a beach house or a sweet ride get thrown into the mix, well...so much the better.
So what are those things?
I want them to be happy. Whatever that means for them.
I want them to believe in themselves.
I want them to know that they can be whatever they want to be.
I want them to find somebody to share their lives. Someone who makes them as happy and whole as their father makes me. Someone who will be their best friend and their lover, forever.
I want them to thirst for knowledge, seek answers, question everything and never, ever stop learning.
I want them to understand that the world is a big place and everything in it is worth their attention. I want them to never be mired in the insular attitudes that keep people from ever wondering about other people. I want them to seek out new vistas with ever interested eyes, new tastes with an ever hungry palate, new ideas with an ever curious mind.
I want them to experience regret and failure, because without it, we do not grow.
I want them to grow up and think...You know, I had really awesome parents.
Okay, maybe that last one is more for me than them, but I had awesome parents and it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized just how lucky I was and just how many people don't have awesome parents. And I wonder about those little twirling girls, with the tiny tutus and the tidy little ballerina buns. Will they think they had awesome parents? Will they look back and think...Boy, I was really lucky.?
Class ends and the girls race to their mothers. The tearful coup stager is swept into her mother's arms and for a moment I think more kindly of the woman, as it appears that she is going to comfort the tired and clearly overwhelmed child. But then I hear the ummistakable sound of murmured scolding and my heart sinks. Two years old and already she has failed to live up to her mother's expectations.
The woman looks up and our eyes meet. Her expression is inscrutable, but I fear mine is not. Does she the sadness there? I can't tell, but I think so, because she turns her back on me abruptly, though we had spoken cordially enough moments ago. Now the child is facing me. Her bun has come undone and strands of gilded hair stick to her cheeks, glued by the tears that still trickle from her clear blue eyes.
I realize that I am being judgemental, but I am angry with that woman all the same. And I hope someday, somewhere, someone teaches that little girl how to blow dandelion fuzz into the wind.
Please God, let her learn from somebody.