I’ve been meaning to write this letter to Noah for some time now, because it’s something really close to our hearts. This is something that C and I have discussed over and over again, even while I was pregnant, because let’s face it, our society in general breeds the kiasu (fear of losing out) mentality. I often get so caught up in it that I lose sight of our common goals, and C, my voice of reason, reminds me to always stop and think about what we really want for Noah, rather than what society thinks is important.
My darling baby boy,
You’ve just turned two recently, and I can’t believe that you’ll be going to school in a few months time. In Singapore, most kids start school in the year that they turn three or four, so come January, you’ll be off to meet new friends and teachers, for three hours a day. Many mums would probably rejoice at having some time to themselves, and I guess I might enjoy the “freedom” after a while, but right now, I’m so tempted to keep you home with me for an extra year, or for as long as possible.
You see, before I became a parent, I had all these lofty ideas of how I would make full use of my time at home with you (or any other future children we may have), and teach you seemingly important things like the alphabet. I thought I would be extremely disciplined in making you do your tummy time, so that you could flip over earlier than most babies. I secretly had many plans to help you be more “advanced”, but after you were born, all I cared about was if you were happy, and growing well.
Does it matter that you only managed to flip over when you turned six months old? Does it matter that you only started crawling when you were about ten months old, and after we sent you for gym classes? Does it really matter that you only started walking when you were about sixteen months old? Honestly, no. I admit that I fretted over you being unable to meet your physical milestones initially, but Daddy very wisely reminded me that when you start school or go for job interviews in the future, no one will ever ask you when you first started walking.
Does it matter that you still don’t know the entire alphabet? Does it matter that you can’t count? Does it matter that you can’t colour within the lines, and have no idea that that’s what you’re supposed to do? Does it matter that you struggle with puzzles? Frankly, I do worry that you’ll be one of the few (or the only!) children in your class next year, who can’t recognise many letters or numbers. I worry that your classmates will tease you, and I worry even more that you’ll feel inferior to them. I worry that I would have failed you by not “preparing” you for school, because I do get nervous when I hear of other children who are younger than you, and are able to recognise letters/numbers/Chinese characters, colour neatly, and do puzzles at record-breaking speeds. Does it mean that you’re not as smart as them, or does it just mean that you haven’t been exposed sufficiently to all these things, because I choose to let you play instead? Does it matter, if you really aren’t “smart”?
Daddy and I have had many conversations about this, and agree that what really matters, is that you have grit. We want you to keep trying, to persevere even when things seem too tough, to be self-disciplined enough to push yourself, to never give up. We both know people who were really smart, who could ace their tests/examinations without needing to study, but we also know that being smart isn’t enough. You need to have grit, in order to succeed in life, and to be able to pick yourself up after setbacks.
These articles we read, 5 Basic Skills We’re Forgetting to Teach our Children, The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart, and Why Some Kids Try Harder and Some Kids Give Up, sum up our sentiments exactly, and remind us that intelligence isn’t what we should be focused on. This is why we don’t ever tell you that you’re “so clever” or “so smart”, and we tell our relatives not to say those two phrases to you either. We want you to have the growth mindset, so we encourage you to keep trying, and celebrate with you when you succeed at something after you’ve tried. It really makes me so happy to hear you muttering encouragements to yourself, “Just try. Almost there. Keep going!”, and praising yourself “Good job, Noah!” when you achieve your goals, because it means that all our encouragements have made an impact on you, as you can now repeat them to yourself, without any prompting. More importantly, you try harder these days, and your requests for help aren’t as frequent as before. No matter how simple the achievement might seem, be it climbing up stairs, going up the slide, or completing a puzzle, I hope you know that we are very proud of you, when, and because you try.
With all my love, as always,
Working on a puzzle (with mummy’s help, of course)
Going up the slide
You climbed this slope successfully, after encouraging yourself!
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