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A designated break from being a mother, an interlude from the habitual chaos at home, a weekly reward of brief solitude I give to myself. Sometimes though, a ripple of thought upsets the tranquility, awakening an inner conflict, making it hard to be at peace even at a place where silence dominates.
My volunteer work at the library is purely out of love for books. Week after week, I look forward to spending those 2 hours in the world of paper and ink, characters and stories, color and print. Most Wednesdays, those 2 hours go by in methodical sorting and shelving of children’s books and in near silence. Once in a while someone comes looking for a specific genre or author and I point out the right direction. The highlight of my day is when a patron comes up and says thank you for taking time out for the community. Makes me feel like even the little bit of effort that I take every week, doesn’t go unnoticed. Those rare intrusions make my day.
One such Wednesday, as I pushed a cart full of books towards the children’s area, a lady came over. She asked me where she could find some books for her 4 month old boy. The question caught me off guard and I fumbled. “For a 4 year old?” I asked back, not sure whether to believe my ears or not. “No”, she replied coolly, “4 months old”. Okay, I thought to myself, don’t be so shocked, I mean parenting experts have advocated reading books to children when they are in the womb, so this should be no big deal.
I escorted her to the area where all board books for the younger kids were arranged way down below to reach out and grab. She settled there on the floor and began her search. A couple of minutes must have passed when she came up to me again and asked if there were any classes in session for infants as young as her son. More specifically, she said, she was looking for classes which taught alphabets and numbers. Politely, I told her I had no knowledge of any such class in session for a 4 month old at the library.
After that, I found it hard to focus on the job at hand. It wasn’t just her inquiry about books and activities; it was the determined look on that mother’s face that got me thinking.
From giving a head start to monitoring their free time to getting them occupied with every possible activity class, we have taken the concept of learning to a whole new level when it comes to our children.
And that is why we have infants trying to learn alphabets, toddlers attending classes to play chess and school goers trying their hands at taekwondo, swimming, Bharatnaytam, gymnastics, piano and painting, simultaneously! (jack of all ??)
Does an early start guarantee better results? I would say, not always. Children have curious minds and are eager learners but that doesn’t mean they can be pushed in any direction at any age. For certain things like musical instruments or particular forms of dance, it has been said, the earlier you start the better your mind and body adapts to it, which I agree and accept. But can the same result be achieved if ten different things are also added to the “learning” list? What happened to pursuing an art or a hobby and conquering it?
It would be interesting to find out what has prompted this sudden surge in ‘activity classes’ in the past couple of years. Is it the need of the hour, our own unfulfilled ambition or a status booster? I think a part of it is also a paid escape from engaging the child yourself. Either ways, I find it hard to believe that it is the child’s wish firstly because children do not have the resources to come up with this list of diverse things to do AND given a choice they would probably just like to play with their friends then take on half the things mentioned above.
Talking about play, a few days back, I was in company of a few moms who were seen exchanging schedules to fix up play dates for their children. Yes, not their own but their children’s timetables and they come to a conclusion that the first slot available for the kids to meet and play is after 2 weeks!!
And so to reiterate my initial observation, the goal that we have set up for our children these days is to start learning as much as they can, as early as they can and as fast as they can. We want to teach them to run before they can learn to walk.
Whether or not it is detrimental for your child is not for me to decide. Exposing a child to various pursuits is a good thing; falling prey to the current ‘fad’ is not. So provide your children with the opportunity to learn new things but try not to burden them with too many choices. Let them begin right on time or when they are ready, instead of giving them a premature shove. Learning is different from achieving; let us keep that in mind.
Pic credit: Courosa (Used under a creative commons license)
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