Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What is Normal?

At this point in my parenting, I think sometimes it's hard (maybe impossible) to see the trajectory of a child's. Nevertheless, occasionally, my desire for control has me trying to pin down all the things that can happen so as to know what WILL happen. That might work for the next two minutes if I'm alone, with only my own actions to consider, but add a few variables, like people or more minutes, and that grasp for control becomes futile.

Lately, I've been thinking about this need to predict the future and what I perceive to be society's increasingly harsh view of children. I have my own reasons for considering this issue, but I see other families struggling with it as well.

It starts with baby milestones and "when to worry".  If a child isn't walking or talking close to the same time as his agemates, what does that mean? There are the more immediate things like frustration or social struggles and the question is whether this is indicative of bigger, longer-term problems. When we look at that individual child though, we observe in 5 years that he still has challenges, but 15 years in, likely no one will know how old he was when he finally started stringing words together. Then again, they could prove to be problems for the rest of his life. I think our society assumes more and more that missing a milestone justifies relegating a child to a life of special ed, medication or therapy.

I'm just not sure that's working so well for those involved--children and their caregivers. Is it possible that by labeling these children earlier and earlier that we're trying to control their trajectory? Is it really possible to give a boost to a child by assigning him to backwaters in our educational system? Are we wanting everyone to be equal at the expense of individuality? Just because you don't read until you're 9 or 13 doesn't mean you'll never be a reader; being told there is something wrong with you because you cannot read at 6 or 7 could be a self-fulfilling judgment, ensuring you never develop a zeal for reading.

Jason just recently pointed out that being clumsy in math or spelling is viewed in a completely different way from being clumsy with a paintbrush or a flute. There is a cultural literacy, of course, that "requires" us to read and do some math, but why can we accept a poor sketch because this person "just isn't an artist", but really expect everyone to be able to do arithmetic and reading on the same level?

1 comment: