Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Turning 4

Last week my little boy turned 4.
He is no longer a baby. He is a confident, funny, smart, tall, growing up boy. And next year he will be going to school.

The concept of my baby boy going to school is a little disconcerting for me. Have 4 years really passed since his birth? Could he possibly be growing up this quickly? Is he ready for school? Am I ready for school.

Sending my child off to school feels a little like I’m cheating him of his childhood – stripping him of his innocence and demanding that he grow up and become world savvy quickly. I see before him the years of learning, tests, exams, pressure, stress and expectation to do well. I see his path of life of cramming, competition and constant scrutiny to perform.

I wonder, amongst this, are we doing enough for him to achieve his goals within this system, have we given him the skills and the encouragement, have we given him the strength and the confidence to become whatever his heart desires. I truly hope the answer is yes, but does any parent really know till the last University exam is done.

I am being hard on myself with what I have written so far. I can hear you screaming that it doesn’t need to be that way, and I thoroughly agree. I think education can be a wonderful source of adventure and the learning process one of exhilaration and passion. I loved learning, was passionate about so many areas and I hope beyond everything that Max has that same passion. I will do whatever I can to foster his experiences positively. I have no real doubt that Max will do well in whatever he sets his sights on – he has an intensity for detail, perseverance, a yearning to learn how things work and how to put information together. He loves numbers and letters, appreciates colour theory, understands the concept of components and building upon things to create wholes and enjoys his quests to understand. I believe in the school system he will go into, the power of community nurturing, and the emerging curriculum he is already a part of at his daycare. He follows the Reggio Emilia model of learning which I think provides an important building block of establishing ability to think, question, answer and understand within a democratic environment.

What I feel is the quiet slipping away of his childhood – to better things one hopes - but that sense that time is rapidly gaining momentum and suddenly I will wake up and have a teenager in my house complaining of acne. Soon the small bikes he is learning to ride on will be gathering dust, the paddling pools will be put away. His screaming in delight and his delightful monologues in the sandpit will be gone. His tears over stubbed toes will disappear, and mummies kiss will no longer heal all wounds. Soon his cherished naivety about life will be replaced with some harsh realities, which I want desperately to shield him from, but which I know he needs to feel, see and experience to become the person he needs to be and to live the life he was destined to live.

I worry about his future as any mother does, wanting to know an outcome in 50 years and that he will be ok so I can relax in the here and now. Perhaps that would in some way take away from the glory of watching him grow and develop, find interests and learn sometimes by default or the hard way. I will be with him every step of the way, encouraging, supporting, smiling, and guiding. And I still have 11 months to prepare myself for his momentous step into the world when I say goodbye at the school gate. My little boy is growing up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your thoughts, and I really do feel the same way as Ellen will turn six and start school in September this year. I have gone through this before when her much elder sister (turning 21 this year) started school and I know there is definitely a break. Going to school means the end of something I cannot quite describe, and I do not know whether I am ready to let her go and if she is prepared to leave. brgds Gudrun on the other side of the world

3:56 am  
Anonymous michelle giacobello said...

My little boy started school this year.

Heartbreaking to send him off into such a big schoolyard with other children who may not understand how brave, and clever, and loving and sensitive he is. Who may choose to dash his heart to the ground, be disloyal, make cruel remarks, choose another friend to play with today....

Miraculously, months later, I can report that on the first day he was excited, by the end of the first month he was excited, and the end of the first term he was excited.

Excited to learn how to read, excited to be interacting with other kids big and small, excited to be popular, excited to have offers of marriage (yes really), excited to know there are things he doesn't know yet, that he will find easy to learn when he's ready.

The other day I witnessed something every mother dreads - another boy came up to mine and said 'I'm having a party, and I'm not inviting you'. My boy said 'I don't care'. Miraculously he really, really, didn't.

Build 'em up and watch them run, and if you teach them to love, they should come back I figure. Seems to be working just fine. :)

1:46 pm  

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