When you have a child there’s often a secret league you enter, your child is pitted against all other local children of similar age, in a milestone/ability/development race. Each time a child hits one of these developmental goals the mum is free to ask EVERY other parent if their child has achieved this yet, then give the exact date and age that their child did so.
Whether you want to be in this league, or not there’s usually some point at which you find yourself inadvertently competing, until you stop and ask yourself what the heck you’re actually doing!!!? Be it rolling over, learning to walk, first words, first sleeping through the night, etc, it’s all high stakes! Those who’s child had not reached a milestone securing at least 1st, 2nd or 3rd position, will be left red faced and embarrassed at the playgroup Parents table, when the award ceremonies are taking place and rosettes are handed out.
Well, thankfully, as they get older the competition seems to wane a little. But there’s still those expected ‘can do’s.’
My son, who is now 9, can still not ride a bike. He’s had many bikes (which have all eventually grown a lovely layer of rust in the garage). He rode occasionally, with stabilisers and with persuasion, in the hope this might spur a motivation to learn to ride, but it didn’t. He has no interest at all in bike riding.
He has 4 different types of scooter, even a strange two footed, wiggle thing(?) and he loves charging off on these. But bike riding is always a firm, ‘No!’
There have been various family and friends who have expressed shock in the last few years, upon learning that Henri cannot yet ride, and I’ve often tried to shield him from this kind of (albeit spontaneous) response. But each time I experienced this I became more irrational and worried about the ‘situation.’
My initial, (stupid) reaction was to encourage, encourage, ENCOURAGE!
This little human had clearly stated that he did not want to do something, but feeling that this is a milestone that has to be surpassed by say, around 5-7 years old, (this is not the ‘official’ age, just a ridiculous estimate I created in my mind!) I pressed on with my campaign for a while. It was futile, he is a boy who knows his own mind and he was not taking the various baits being offered. Like, at all.
As he got older My internal panic heightened. What would he do if he reached 20 and still couldn’t ride??! Would he ever find his way in the world without this skill?? Never did I consider the fact that it is actually not an essential requirement in adult life. Even the fact that I myself am not a fan of bike riding and don’t own a bike! Nope, the train of irrational frenzy was speeding down the tracks and far too busy to look back!
Then, this year, Molly asked for a new bike, she had occassionally ridden with her stabilisers for a while, on her smaller one, but never expressed much interest in taking it further either. Suddenly, it was all she wanted to do, she rode it in the garden, and on every walk. Within the space of a week, she was riding unaided. Not because I’d encouraged it, but because she wanted to. And that was it, done!
It was a complete wake up call, why on earth had I been pushing for this to happen with Henri?! When (and if!) he wanted to do it, he would! Until then he’s enjoying his other outdoor interests and he’s happy! I asked myself what is more important than that?
He loves being outside, he jumps around constantly and loves to run, scoot, skip, swing and bounce on trampolines to name but a few. He’s definitely getting a lot of exercise, all the time, so why on earth was I pushing this one activity so much???!!
How do you feel about the Great Development Race? Has it ever had an affect on the way you parent?