A second bite of the cherry

A few weeks ago, my dad called me up for a quick chat. In the course of our short conversation he casually stated that he was looking forward to seeing how I would teach my daughter (let’s call her Boo), her letters. She is 20 months old. Some time after that, he and my mum came for a visit – we live about 2.5 hours apart. He brought with him a newspaper clipping about a 3 year old who could read. Now we’re not talking Hop on Pop here either. Just the typical book that would ordinarily be mastered by say, a 12 year old. “I wonder”, my Dad solemnly reflected, “if Boo will know how to read by three?” A few days ago, he visited again. My Dad loves playing music and considers it to be of vital importance that all children are given the gift of music. So do I. However, it was when the words “prodigy” and “genius” fell from his lips, in combination with a comment about private tuition needing to begin by the age of 4 that I started to really worry….is my dad trying to relive his own unmet parenting desires through my daughter???

My dad’s a good chap. I love him dearly and we have a better relationship now than we ever have had before. This is most likely because I have produced his first and only grandchild so far. The fact that I got married before doing so makes it even better in his eyes. What my dad doesn’t realise is that he has had a pretty major influence on my parenting philosophy and practice. It goes like this: WHATEVER DAD DID…DON’T.

I’m sorry but it’s true. This motto most applies to the area of academic achievements. My father prized academic success over anything and everything else. Straight A’s = abundance of fatherly love. Anything else was punished with rejection.  He chose our school subjects (to this day I hate Economics with a passion, especially when it’s taught by someone who resembles one of the Seven Dwarves…Sleepy nonetheless). He made us study during the school holidays…WHEN WE WERE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL. He made us rote learn from those horrible Joy of Knowledge encyclopaedias…and then gave us tests. We were even forced to watch documentaries about the Cold War (now there’s an exciting night’s viewing for you). Now all of this didn’t result in kids in the Mensa club at the age of 11. Sure we all did well at school. We also hated it. We also hated the school holidays – school itself was actually far less stressful. We all went to university, studying in fields that met with his approval. Three out of four of us have gone on into different fields from our university study…we finally got to do what we wanted to do. My dad never got his doctor, his lawyer or his engineer. Has my daughter presented him with a new opportunity to rectify the past?

So my concern now is how do I communicate my own values and desires with regard to academic achievements to my father – which are poles apart from his ideas? How do I do this without him feeling rejected? How do I tell him that I don’t want for my daughter what he wanted for us? How do I know that future visits to Nanna & Pa’s won’t be marred by my daughter being forced to recite her times tables? Will I experience that same feeling of rejection if my daughter fails to live up to his expectations, meet his standards? Will she be rejected for not being ‘smart enough’? How do I keep him involved as a grandparent – which is vitally important to me – but let both him and my daughter know that HIS standards don’t apply?

I have no desire for my child to be a genius…but that’s because I already think she’s a genius (ok, ok, not quite). But I’m certainly not interested in applying any pressure on her to conform to my desires or expectations with regards to academia or career. I want her to enjoy her schooling and most especially enjoy her toddlerhood. I want her to be free, to play and be happy. I don’t want her to bear the burden of parental expectation (and subsequent disappointment) that forces one to be something that they are not and have no desire to be.

So all of these recent little episodes have made me wonder if some people feel that grandparent-hood is THEIR chance to rewrite the past – to get their child prodigy, their musical maestro, their brain surgeon? How do you deal with this as a parent? And, more importantly, how does it affect the grandchild?

 

Yes, believe it or not there are already people cheating 😦 .  This icon has been moved.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Wow. I don’t know what to say, except I’m glad my parents let us go in any direction we chose. And I’m having trouble getting past the learning letters, because for me that ranks up there with car maintenance in ‘Things toddlers don’t need to know.’ There are so many many many more parts to learning to read, letters just get in the way!
    I think we can’t help but put our values and desires onto our children, that’s normal unless it’s obviously not the way they want to be. But I would have a real problem with someone else doing it. I have no idea of how to deal with that situation. Good luck!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Capricious on August 15, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I am lucky not to feel pressured from my parents into choosing any particular lifestyle or career however I do see hints from my parents towards my son. So far he has been presented with a ukalele, a harp, a recorder, a xylophone, maracas…

    Reply

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