Lake Wobegon syndrome

I’m not boasting on Facebook, because who wants to be that parent? But this blog is semi-anonymous so I might as well boast here. Today’s achievement in toddler-land is that R can count up to five objects unprompted, and up to ten with prompts. She’s 17 months! She’s a genius!

Well, I don’t really know whether she’s a genius. She’s my first kid, I have no idea what’s normal. A quick query to Dr. Google makes it sound like there are plenty of children her age and younger who can count to ten. But I think she’s on the upper end of average? There are plenty of children her age and older who don’t say five words, period.

Plus, one of my favorite things I learned from unschooling is that everybody has strengths and weaknesses. My favorite example is that I learned to read early, while Z didn’t read for pleasure until age 12. But he has a talent for health care I’ll never come close to–he’s the guy who will give you a casual shoulder rub and somehow hit every trigger point to make you feel amazing afterwards, and let me tell you he is my #1 person to have around when gross bodily fluids are being spilled. (Uh. Not in that way. Ok, in that way too.)

Anyway… Right, I was talking about strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is good at some things and not good at others, and that’s just how the world works. Nobody’s smarter than anybody else, our society just values some skills above other skills and calls the people who have those skills smarter.

Lake Wobegon Days

Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s just that the things R is good at are things our society values. She has a vocabulary of several hundred words. She’s social with other adults and children, and gentle with animals and babies. She thinks cleaning up her toys is an awesome game, and if you ever need to distract her all you need to do is ask her to help you with something. She’s memorized a dozen of her favorite books. She started walking just before her first birthday and is now a confident and safe climber. She does a mean somersault. She talks to her favorite stuffed animals in the most adorable little voice I’ve ever heard. She is a tenacious problem-solver. Unless she’s tired or hungry or over-stimulated she stops when you ask her to stop. She doesn’t throw tantrums. (Seriously. No tantrums. She gets angry but is always easy to redirect. I don’t know what’s up with that.)

I know I’m biased, but I can’t really think of things she’s not good at. Oh! Wait, I know, the sleeping thing. The waking up every two hours for the entire first year of her life thing, and the still waking up at least once a night and usually twice thing. That definitely sucks. And she’s a picky eater? She hated her carseat for most of her first year, which was annoying, but actually requests car rides now. That’s about it, though.

So, okay, she’s awesome, she’s fabulous. (I haven’t even mentioned her sense of humor. I think she’s hilarious. The first joke she ever played on me was around 9 or 10 months, when she closed a baby gate in my face and crawled away as fast as she could, laughing hysterically. That’s my kind of humor.) So what? What does it mean if she’s someday labeled “gifted”? What do I care?

If she goes to school it could come in handy–she might end up with access to programs that are more challenging and/or more flexible than standard curricula. If she homeschools it’ll definitely come in handy–there are far fewer questions and raised eyebrows for a child who meets or exceeds standard school requirements. On a personal and kind of ugly level, it makes me feel better about myself–I can’t be a bad parent if I have such a smart/talented/easy child. It could encourage her self-esteem to have people telling her she’s smart all the time.

Or it could convince her that anything she doesn’t do well right away isn’t worth doing. (One of my big problems.) Or it could stress her out, trying to measure up to some external goalpost of academic skill. Or I could be really, really freaking annoying on Facebook and end up with my fellow parents cursing me out for making them cry into their cheerios about little Timmy only knowing 50 words, and leave my childfree friends muttering, “Who the fuck cares that a toddler can count to five, I can count to five and also I don’t poop my pants.”

I know I’m borrowing trouble. She’s not even a year and a half old. She poops in her pants daily. Most of this stuff will even out in the next few years, and the stuff that doesn’t will matter less. She’ll develop a wider range of talents and interests, which will automatically mean she’ll focus on some things and not on others. And in the big picture it really, really doesn’t matter. The Big Question of life is not “Is it easy for you to learn to read and count?” but “Are you happy? Have you made others happy? Do you leave people and places better than they were?” I mean, absolutely I think Busy Bee makes the world a better place by existing and being awesome, but counting to five has nothing to do with that.

So I don’t boast on Facebook about this stuff. I try to limit my stories to fun things we did together, or at least funny stories. I try to use language with Busy Bee that emphasizes what she does rather than what she is. And as always, I trust. I trust R to figure out her own path, and I trust myself to not screw her up.

It’s working out pretty well so far.

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