It’s that time of the development life cycle. No, not the software life cycle, you IT nerds, the child development life cycle. My girl is turning 6 this year, and, as all ‘responsible’ parents we feel the compulsion to overload her with extracurricular activities. Wouldn’t want to miss out on that golden opportunity…
There are several options, but the problem has never been a lack of options. The problem is choosing one over another.
To make sure I could do that when the time came, i.e. now, I observed her. Not just for the last couple of weeks or months. More like 3 years. Ever since she started showing any signs of any type of intelligence, I was there with my eyes and ears wide open. I was on a mission to find out where her talents lay. Who could she become? Who would she want to become?
I found out one thing for certain: I’m no oracle. Yes, she shows some natural talent for music, for instance. But much also depends on the choices we will make for her, the directions we will push her in, based on how we interpret her potential. And so much can get lost in translation, especially when the kids are so young. But whether we choose to go left or right may not really matter in the end, as long as we are consistently moving in the direction of a sound education. Because one thing that cannot be denied is the value of education.
I’m currently reading a biography of Hans Christian Andersen “A New Life” by Jens Andersen. I’m at the chapter about his formative years, when they tried to make a ‘decent citizen’ out of him and tame his wild rural nature and his compulsion for writing sappy juvenile poetry. There is a quote by Kant in the book that reads:
A human being is given by nature such a great propensity for freedom that once he has become accustomed to it for a period of time, he will sacrifice anything for it. That is precisely why discipline, as mentioned, must also be employed quite early; if this is not done, it is difficult afterwards to change a person… If allowed to have his way when young and not offered any opposition, a person will retain a certain savageness throughout his entire life.
(Immanuel Kant: On Pedagogy)
That takes my right back to my own childhood. Most of my own disciplining was obtained under the watchful eye of the communist regime. As pioneers, we were taught to salute, to respect our uniform and the red scarf around our necks. But, most of all, we were taught to love grandpa Lenin. According to commie lore, grandpa Lenin could write secret messages on book margins with milk, could consume a book of 1000 pages in a matter of minutes, spoke 7 languages(one for every day of the week) including some common bird languages, and could walk through walls.
What is the point of the commie interlude? Maybe just to say that no matter how I feel about all that stuff now, it’s still very much a part of me, of the person I’ve become today. I may well fully realize that there are better fables to tell my children about far less questionable heroes than Vladimir Ilyich. But I still keep a pin in the shape of a red star with a picture of him as a 4 year old boy. I may understand that clothes help us express our individuality. But thinking about what to wear every morning drives me nuts, and my few pairs of jeans and t-shirts really have become the closest thing to a uniform I can still wear without raising suspicions about my east block past.
So, today, on the eve of the birthday of the All-Union Pioneer Organization, and being fully aware that my own old habits die hard, “I, Kolesnikova, Alesia … solemnly promise” to do my best to instill good habits rather than bad ones in my kids.
Of course, there are other dangers lurking in the trenches, like trying to live out your own frustrated dreams through your children or pushing them too hard to make up for your own mistakes. But, what’s a family without the family drama…