Growing up is hard

I’m not exactly sure what caught the Munchkin’s fancy on this, but she wanted to work on her letters today. Specifically, the letter “A”.

She and I have worked on “writing” her letters before – meaning that she holds the crayon and I guide her hand to do the writing – but this became a little more personal for her today. I got on a kids’ website and actually printed up a tracing page that had both capital and lowercase “A” lines on it, and we began working on the capitals.

It wasn’t long before the Munchkin wanted to write by herself. So I backed off and let her give it a try.

Her fist clenched the pink crayon as she tried to follow what I had been saying: “Up, down, across. Up, down, across.” No luck. She, at two and a half, simply didn’t have the fine motor skills to make her hand do what she wanted. And the tears began to fall. “Mommy, help me,” she pleaded. And while I could help for a while, Tad was pulling at me, needing a diaper change and whining for my attention. So I gently told the Munchkin that I had to go, but that she could keep trying.

“Oh please oh please oh please Mommy, help me,” she sobbed.

I finally managed to extricate myself from her grasp, pick up Tad, and change his diaper. She followed me into the nursery, crying. Her life was not complete unless she could write that “A”, and she could only do it with Mommy’s assistance. After I was done with Tad’s diaper, I called my mother for her opinion.

She thought that the whole idea was a little advanced for the Munchkin, but I told my mom that she was now hooked on the idea of trying, and refused to give up. Meanwhile, the Munchkin hears me talking to Grandma and wants to get on the phone. I handed the phone to the Munchkin. “Hi, Grandma,” she said in a very sad, quiet voice. “Grandma, I can’t write the letter A.”

I’m not sure what Grandma said to her, but the poor Munchkin was just so sad about it, and finally handed the phone back to me after saying good-bye. “I have never heard her that subdued over the phone,” my mother said. She thought I should just distract her from it, and since it was nearly lunchtime, it wasn’t too hard to do.

But when the Webmaster got home, she wanted to show him the tracing paper and her attempts to work on her letter. But her fingers still wouldn’t obey her, as she kept saying “up, down, across” to herself. Her Daddy helped her for a while, but she was still frustrated. However, she didn’t cry about it this time. She just set her lips – and her jaw – and just worked on her coloring instead.

I felt like picking her up, giving her a hug and saying, “Honey, you’re 2 years old! You’re not 4 or 5, and no one expects you to do this! It’s okay!” I know my daughter has a strong will, and I know that it will be an asset to her as she gets older. But it’s just so hard to watch her try something that she isn’t skilled enough to do yet, and then break down in tears when she can’t make herself do it properly.

And then I caught up with MIM, who posted both at her own blog and at PiP about an LA Times article talking about how parents are hiring tutors for 3 year olds to make sure that they get into quality, prestigious kindergartens. After yesterday with the Munchkin, I wish that some of these people who think that “kindergarten is the new first grade” could’ve seen her, tears running down her cheeks, as she tried – at age 2, nearly 3 – to be more grown-up than she was capable of being. I want her to love learning, not get frustrated by it. I want her to enjoy herself, even if she can’t write her letters when she’s 4. I want her to be a kid, and have as carefree a childhood – filled with fun and the outdoors and storybooks and songs – as I did.

2 Responses to “Growing up is hard”

  1. Little Cousin's Mommy
    September 26th, 2006 07:11

    Oh, poor sweetie. Give her an extra hug from me.

    I saw a dateline, 20/20 or something akin to it have a segment on parents “cultivating their children’s natural potential.” These parents go on and on how little Sophia has “star quality” and they would never want to hold her back from achieving her goals. So, little Sophia spends ten hours a week in a Broadway Musical class (I am NOT making that up, that class really exists). But these obsessive parents don’t stop there, these kids have school, horseback riding lessons, piano lessons, basketball practice, and the list goes on. These parents are overloading their children and robbing them of their childhood. The children will grow up to be burnt-out, immature, arrogant pinheads of adults who cannot function in society because they were raised in their parents’ manufactured world where they are, or have to be, the best in everything.

    Wanting your child to excel is one thing and it is wise to help him/her in any area of weakness, putting him/her in a couple programs that you think he/she will enjoy is one thing, but you have to know when enough is enough. Little Cousin loves to dance, so I may put her in a dance class someday, but purely for fun and to make friends, not because I think she could be a star or I want my comfort in old age secured by her good income. If she decides she doesn’t like it anymore, she can stop (after attending all the lessons we’ve paid for). It’s as simple at that. I want her to remember her childhood like Munchkin will: loving and fun, with a lot of good memories.

    Okay, I’m off my soapbox.

  2. MIM
    September 27th, 2006 20:20

    Deanna, that is such a sweet, yet sad story. I could just feel Munchkin’s frustration. This is such a good example of pressure that kids put on themselves. We don’t need to add to that pressure. We need to help them with it.

    Munchkin’s fortunate to have such a thoughtful mother.