Earlier this week, I walked my daughter into her class. It was 0815 and all the other children were entering their sweet little class room when I noticed something. The little girls had beautiful plaits in their hair, one of my daughter’s friends had two great big buns twisted onto the top of her head in perfect symmetry. And here stood my daughter, with her crazy blond hair just resting like a mop, a very clean and pretty mop, but a mop nonetheless.
I watched as the other children all took to their seats and played nicely, then I turned to see my daughter, kneeling on her seat, her body slightly twisted, building something completely different to the other children. I know my daughter is different to the others, I am raising her to be who she is, and not pushing her into societies warped view of what women should be.
But she is soooo different. At ballet, while the other girls are pirouetting with perfection, my daughter is hanging off the ballet barres. In her swimming lessons the other children follow instruction, swimming up and down in unison, not my child. My child uses the pool noodle to relax into, and float. Yet somehow the teachers love her, they let her be who she is which makes me incredibly happy. My girl is a fantastic swimmer when she is in the mood to listen, which is about 40% of the time.
Sometimes I hope she will just do what everyone else is doing, especially when the other parents are staring me out, wondering what sort of parent I must be if my daughter can’t respect the teachers enough to follow orders. And then there are the times I have been told by childminders or parents that I should look into ADHD and Asperger syndrome, because they truly believe my daughter MUST be labelled because she is different. I nod in agreement and then I leave, never respecting that person again. I go home, I often cry, I call my sister and I cry hard, I tell her that I need to change my ways, I have to be a different kind of parent and help my girl to fit in, and do you know what she says? … she says no. Absolutely not. In 15 years your daughter will be a leader, she will know who she is, and these other young girls will be in the place that your baby is in right now, trying to find out who they are, trying to re-shape themselves to who they want to be and not societies vision of what they should be.
And so I go on, back to ballet where my little girl hangs off the barre, and back to swimming where she floats until she fancies swimming. I pay for those classes because they are important to her, perhaps not as important to her as they are to other children, but she loves them and I love her.
- Edit * It is worth pointing out that my daughter is advanced in her education, she can read well at the age of 4, she is the smallest child in her swimming class and she has lots of friends. My little girl’s teacher also cares for and supports my daughter. We are strict, she doesn’t get away with bad behaviour, and we often say no. There are rules.
So now I am looking around and just wondering, why are we supporting this society and the education system that is turning our children into robots? To produce the same child over and over again, when we should be nurturing their individuality. A robotic, uniformed upbringing will not create doctors, pilots, teachers or artists. It would be ignorant to think you could educate an entire generation of people the same way and achieve diverse results. But as the structure of our education system doesn’t seem to be changing, the only way to accomplish better results for our children is to take matters into our own hands. Let our children be who they want to be, if our sons want to play with dolls then let them. That little boy could make a fantastic midwife one day and hopefully an incredible father. If our daughters want to play with frogs, let them. We don’t know what our children are capable of just yet, but in letting them be who they want to be we are walking them in the right direction.
Although it is hard having a four-year old who needs to know the answer to every question, who will walk off in the opposite direction if she doesn’t want to do what everybody else is doing and stands out like a sore thumb wherever we go, later on I will (hopefully) be thankful to myself for gritting my teeth and for my husband’s support in letting her shape her own personality and future. And who knows, maybe she will thank us too.