Recently I’ve been looking for something to do with Oscar that isn’t just about him running around. Don’t get me wrong – Oscar is a child that gets a lot from running around, but I am keen to exercise his mental abilities as well as his physical capabilities. When I heard Lana, a friend from toddler group and a qualified teacher, was setting up a pre-school maths course we were keen to give it a go. Ben was super keen – I think he’s trying to temper my somewhat language based background with his more science based one (he’s always going on about how he can’t wait to “do a science” with the boy). So we signed up to a course with Top Banana Learning and had our first session last Wednesday.
The idea is to introduce children to the concepts and language of maths from a really early age and I have to say he’s loving the counting based song and stories we’re sharing with him at home. Wednesday’s class was great fun (who doesn’t love a pirate themed counting game?), really well planned and executed with real enthusiasm. The only thing I wasn’t expecting was that Oscar was the oldest child in the group by about 6 months, if not older. It doesn’t sound like much but the differences were clear. He wanted to run around and look at everything, while the younger children sat or crawled slowly. I feared for their little fingers and despite being a completely average size for his age he loomed over the younger ones like a giant. What I wasn’t prepared for was how this was going to make me feel. I felt like I was back at Baby Sensory which, for me, was not a good experience.
When Oscar was 6 months old we did a Baby Sensory course. Baby Sensory is a fantastic concept and enables the youngest of children to develop their senses in a fun way. Although there was a real mix of ages in our class, once again, Oscar was the oldest and physically very advanced for his age. He was crawling around and curious about everything. The other babies lay or sat, engaging with the session, Oscar – not so much. He had mobility and he was going to use it. But rather than just letting him get on with it I felt he should be joining in, should be enjoying watching the activities, should be this, should be that. Baby Sensory started to stress me out to the point where I dreaded going. I felt like my son was different and I felt like other parents were judging him and me. Its hard to explain, but I felt like they thought he was “naughty”, because he wasn’t doing what everyone else did. The odd thoughtless comment didn’t help and people took to calling him things like “crazy”, “trouble” and a “lunatic”. Affectionately I’m sure but it was awful, I was awful. I became embarrassed and ashamed. When I tell people now how he crawled at 6 months and walked at 10 months I’m so proud, but at the time I just wanted him to be “normal”.
When I think about those few months I still feel ashamed, but now in a completely different way. I am ashamed of myself, that I ever thought my son wasn’t “normal” (what ever that is??). I should have just been proud of him and ignored the comments. Doing things at a different pace is what children do. You can read all the books you like, but as a first time parent you are never going to understand this until you go through it. Why would you? It occurred to me just the other week that despite the seemingly millions of different schools of thought around parenting, children will all do the stuff they need to do eventually. Some will just do it differently to others. Faster, slower, sooner, later, some will thrive at this, others at that. Different but the same, the same but different.
So Wednesday’s group didn’t make me feel bad because of what he did, but because of the memories and the shame it evoked in me. Talking to Lana afterwards I couldn’t help but well up a tiny bit. I didn’t realise how fresh it still was. So she kindly suggested we try the Friday group. We did. He wasn’t the oldest. He didn’t always join in, but then neither did any other child. He seemed much calmer (or was that just me projecting?). We left much happier.
So I think we’ll keep going to the Friday class. He really did enjoy it. He’s taken to walking up and down the bath, pointing at the tiles, while Ben counts them for him and his new favourite book is One Ted Falls out of Bed (a counting book by Julia Donaldson). Maybe maths will be his “thing”. Maybe it wont. Whatever. He can be as “different” as he likes and I’ll be proud of him.
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