I believe there is an old saying that goes something to this effect, “Childhood is a journey not a race.” This sounds wonderful and I believe we’d all likely agree with this adage. Yet, when I look at my children’s development it certainly feels like we are engaging in a race. This happens within the classroom, out on the sports’ fields, and clearly across social media. Before I delve into my post, I want to admit that I am not blameless in the race when it comes to my children. I don’t believe there is a sole culprit. I do believe it is a problem and I do believe it is getting worse not better.
For my first child, learning was a nonissue. The way schools assessed and taught worked for his brain and he achieved readily. Sports were where he struggled for a long time. For my daughter it started off pretty similarly in school. She wasn’t him, but we didn’t have to intervene much and she found success ….until she didn’t. The time when everything changed in retrospect was fairly rapid and I am still perplexed even to this day about where we are with her. I am a special education teacher and I live and breathe learning. Those that know me personally, know this is no exaggeration and figuring out early who needs additional intervention is my passion. While at home I always reinforced skills, it wasn’t anything extraordinary and if you had asked me three years ago if my daughter would struggle, I would answer no she’ll be fine. Did I worry about her progress? Yes, but that was based more on some genetic history more than proof of achievement. So it leads us to here…
Did you ever have a little string on a shirt that you wanted to tend to? You pull the string expecting it to come right off, but instead you end up unraveling a huge section. This is my experience with our current “struggle.” It started off with just a little worry on my part and has become something much greater. The race to achievement has started and my child isn’t even at the starting line waiting for the gun blast. By the time race is half way done, I feel like she is just hopping off the line. How could anyone with that much disadvantage finish the race like the other competitors? How would you feel if day after day you showed up for your race, but the gun kept going off before you even had your laces tied? Would you develop anxiety? Would you want to keep coming to the race day after day? Would it wear you down? Would it change your self image, your self-perception?
I spend my days at school trying to keep my little racers’ spirits high, trying to prepare my little ones for these challenges that society is placing upon them. Then I go home and try to train my little racer to hopefully get her off her blocks on time, give her a fair shake. A chance to feel good again, a chance to feel that she fits in. How do I make her life less of a race and more of a journey? Do I remove the help, remove the focus on what is hard and let her be knowing that I take away any advantage I can provide? Do I help her lace up those shoes and get in the race or do I simply let the race happen and cheer her on from the sidelines like a parent should? For now I continue to struggle with that answer, maybe you do too.
Education, sports, drama, music, social status these areas have all become more and more like a competition not a journey. I believe childhood has become like a pressure cooker and our children are the ones ready to explode. I don’t think anyone is happy about it, but I don’t think we quite know how to get out of it …even if we could.