Never mind cousin Rachel

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Over the next few days, extended families across the country will be gathering together for Christmas. Inevitably there will be talk about the children, grandchildren and cousins and how they’ve done during the year, writes Ian Munro.

Comparisons will be made and some parents may be made to feel, and not necessarily deliberately, that somehow their youngster is not measuring up.

We all seem to be in a hurry for things to happen sooner, faster, now. At the same time, it somehow feels that we have to wait even longer than we ever had to before in traffic, at the supermarket, or for the bus. The art of being patient seems to be a dying one.

More and more the pressures of modern living push us relentlessly towards instant gratification. Yet human life is about waiting. We aren’t little midges that live only a few hours or a day or two. We do have the time.

All life is a struggle — the struggle to focus, to sit up, to crawl, to feed ourselves, to talk, to run, to read, to dress ourselves, to write, to ride a bike, to stay up late, to stay out late, to drive a car. Getting there all takes time.

Whether or not they are progressing at the same rate as cousin Rachel isn’t important, be it childhood milestones, academic achievement or sporting prowess.

There’s so much truth in the old adage about learning to walk before you run. And doing that involves some sort of waiting, whether it’s literally a toddler learning to walk or a teenager or adult attempting to master a skill or achieve a goal. Along the way there’ll be trial and error and frustration. But, oh, the sense of success when you get there. You can certainly see success writ large on a child’s face. And it needs to be their success not ours.

We need to think carefully before we try to hasten developments that will come only when the brain or the body are physically ready. It doesn’t matter whether it’s being toilet-trained, being able to read or being successful in physical activities or competitive sport.

Our children don’t exist to be status symbols to impress or be used to massage our egos. They should never be show ponies. Nor should they be there for us to live vicariously through.

Our role as parents is to love and nurture our youngsters and help them to become the best people that they can be at their pace. Cousin Rachel’s achievements are irrelevant.

Don’t be drawn into those competitive conversations. Only enter those where the interest is genuine, otherwise change the subject to talk about the great summer we’re having. Merry Christmas. 

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