We all want the best for our family, right? Especially when it comes to our kids. We want them to have a better education than we have had. We want them to stay ahead of the pack, never be behind at anything, never lack for anything...
Thus we become sitting ducks for every person/ corporate who has a child-oriented business. Right from the moment the baby is conceived, we are exhorted by "child experts" to let the fetus listen to the compositions of classical greats! Once the baby is born, we are sold umpteen contraptions to make the child more intelligent, better informed and a WINNER in all aspects.
The favorite tag line of most of these businesses is "leave the child to us during this age to this age when their brain development is at the highest". For example, when high-end "designer" pre-schools approach you for custom, they remind you that "the brain develops the most from birth to the age of three" and admonish you for having let your six-month-old waste 6 precious months of optimum brain development by having been at home with you. So you are urged to pack him/her off complete with baby formula. And within just six months you are supposed to beam proudly when your baby toddles up to the pictures on the preschool's colorful wall and points out the planet Neptune to you.
But hey, wait! Today I saw an ad for a health drink that assured me that all I need to make my 8-year-old a precocious scientific prodigy is to give him that drink from age 7-14 when - again - "the brain develops the most". Ahem, I'm confused. You mean, my kids' brain didn't stop growing the moment they turned three??? Can I finally redeem myself for not sending both my kids to pre-kindergarten by just giving them the health drink?!! Oh, how guilt-ridden have I been!!!
As the number of choices for co-curricular, extra-curricular and sport activities increase around us, it is easy for us to become bewildered and feel that our kids are losing out by missing one or the other, be it learning Vedic mathematics or cricket coaching or acting classes.
I am no child expert, but I do have the leisure to observe the rat race several parents throw themselves into willingly and then complain and worry all the time. Here is my advice for what it is worth:
- Whenever possible, take care of your kids by yourself. If you are a stay-at-home-mum/papa, don't feel bad that your child is not having a classy education by not going to a designer pre-school. Watching you doing home chores, playing with you and getting all the hugs and kisses that you give all day are the best studies in the world.
- Working parents, don't despair. Instead of sending kids to the ones that just promise the best brain development, try and find a place where they will be treated with love and care, a place where they will feel secure.
- Don't worry at all about early brain development - the brain develops throughout our lifetime - as evidenced by my being able to learn how to ride a scooter at the age of 38. Ok, bad example. But consider this, 80-year-old illiterates can learn to read and write. So what makes you think that your child's brain won't develop past a certain age?
- Whenever possible, let the kids help with chores around the house. This will mean keeping quiet when they make sloppy jobs of it, (I for one find it pretty tough to tolerate that too!) But encourage any effort from them with dollops of praise. Our 5-year-old wielded the rake today when I was weeding. I let him help and thanked him for wanting to do it. And let them play as much as they want in the kitchen.
- Put a limit to co- and extra-curricular activities. For those children who demonstrate extraordinary talent, go all out in encouraging them and training them. But not all children demonstrate such talent at early ages. For such children, just one extra-curricular activity is enough. Give kids some downtime each day to unwind and just play by himself/herself or raise hell with siblings.
If you are a naturally competitive parent and consider all this advice bosh, you are free to do so. It takes all kinds to make the world go around and I'm glad for your existence. But if you are a slightly bewildered parent who is not sure/ feel guilty about your kids missing out, this is for you. It can be unnerving, I have been there. Be confident, push back at those who are trying to foist their child-oriented businesses on you.
And no, no health drink can make your child the tallest/ the strongest/ a mini Einstein. Ask your kid whether they want to BE an Einstein in the first place!!!