According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, not all kids need a break. (Just the dumb ones.)
‘Gifted’ children like the eight-year-old featured in Sarah Muller’s ‘Who Has Time for a Holiday’ are busy learning Shakespeare, completing a three week golf intensive, engaging in classical music workshops and cramming Kumon camp.
Apparently, this particular kid even took mathematics worksheets to his Island holiday. Who wants to snorkel when you can fast track the syllabus? Who wants to eat pie when you can calculate it to it’s 1000th decimal place?
As a parent of five children I read this story with sadness. And it wasn’t just because my kids are the dumb ones who need to do nothing for 6 weeks.
Watch: why play is important for kids. (Post continues after video.)
Frankly, I’m relieved. I don’t want a gifted kid. It’s exhausting enough keeping up with the daily demands of my darling morons.
No, my kids have this thing called ‘friends’. During the holidays they hang out with their ‘friends’ who like them, are also not classified ‘gifted’.
They watch movies, they go to the beach, they play soccer, they climb trees.
While they may not be learning Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5, they are developing something else that’s important to their success both now and in later life: social skills.
One of them washes dishes in a busy café. While it’s not setting her on the path for a career in genetic engineering, it does teach a valuable lesson denied to the super achievers, and that’s humility.
People without humility are unbearable.
It’s hard to get to ‘up yourself’ scrubbing a pot. In fact, I think pot scrubbing might be a good skill builder for super kid.
It’s important to remember that one day your little genius is going to be an adult and they are going to have to mix with the rest of us, so along with reciting the genetic code, they are going to need to know how to make small talk.
It’s lonely being a wonderkid if you don’t know how to make a friend. In my experience, being better than everyone at everything doesn’t really help develop strong interpersonal relationships.
Children need to do Nothing.
Otherwise we will create a generation who can’t be still. There is a Buddhist proverb that parents obsessed with nurturing their childrens’ overachievement should consider.
It says ‘In Stillness the world is restored’. Your smarty pants child is going to have a nervous break down before they hit double digits.
It you don’t teach them how to relax it doesn’t matter how brilliant they are, they’ll still snap. Fortunately when it comes to ‘relaxing’ and ‘stillness’ it turns out that my kids are ‘gifted’. I didn’t even have to teach them. They do it naturally. I am so proud.
Terms like ‘gifted’ have always stuck in my throat. Not that I’ve ever got to say that about my kids.
I imagine parents of gifted children just relishing those opportunities to remind people about their genetic prodigy. In fact, why else would you allow your child to be featured on the front cover of a national newspaper if ‘rubbing it in’ wasn’t some sort of compensation for having such a weird kid? ‘Oh did I mention, Charlie’s gifted. While your kid lay there scratching his balls on the play station, my Charlie mastered the cello and Year 12 trigonometry – and he’s only 2!’
Do children actually ‘want’ to do all these extra-curricular activities – or is this just parents using their sprog as an achievement proxy? Reinforcing the mantra: ‘My child is remarkable, therefore, I am remarkable’.
I remember when my eldest was in kindgergarten, you needed to compare diaries with other parents to make a playdate.
We were living in an elite area (we were asked to leave) and honestly one kid couldn’t do Mondays because she had Russian, than ballet on Tuesday, Wednesday was tennis, Thursday was violin and Friday was swimming. The kid was five and her life was more well planned than mine.
Ironically, that kid is now 21 with an anxiety disorder.
Obsessive learning is exactly that – its obsessive. Very often parents of gifted children are overlooking the fact that their child has a compulsive disorder, and the most important skill they can learn is how to be bored. You don’t need even need to be enrolled. There are things in life that can’t be taught in a ‘course’.
A childhood without boredom is not a proper childhood.
It’s during those long weeks of boredom that I developed this thing called ‘a personality’. It came after lying on the floor for three hours convinced that I was so bored I was going to die.
Then my mother came in and said ‘we’re going to your grandmothers’. Then I knew I was going to die. Two weeks in a house with no TV. Certain Death.
Every moment of the day shouldn’t be filled with activity. It’s part of a first world obsession with over consumption. I don’t think third world children crave Kumon.
I can’t imagine two malnourished children eating rice with their fingers, one turning to the other going ‘Shit Zaleb, I’d trade this bowl of rice for a cello or a weekend workshop with Bell Shakespeare.’
It’s about time parents of allegedly ‘gifted’ children took their Hamlet to heart and taught their kids the most valuable lesson of all – the Zen of nothing…to be….or not to be.
You can see comedian Mandy Nolan live in Women Like Us at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Wed 24 – Sat 27 Feb) and Melbourne Comedy Festival (14, 15 & 16 April).