I recently read an article about a 10 year old boy who was a sophomore in college, studying math and physics. In the article, they described how he developed early with words and numbers. His parents recounted him speaking in sentences just after his first birthday, learning to read around 2.5 to 3 years old, and being fascinated with magnet numbers. He carried them everywhere instead of toys. He played with his magnet numbers.
My first thought: This kid sounds a lot like mine.
My oldest spoke early. Conveniently, he spoke well enough to have conversations and communicate his needs at 18 months old, when his little brother was born. It made having two children close together infinitely easier. He could tell me what he wanted and needed and be sassy and cute all the same. I had no idea at the time that wasn’t really typical.
My oldest also read early, and I credit him in teaching his brother to read early as well. Instead of numbers, he was fascinated by magnet letters. That was his favorite toy for a long time. Friends would make sure they had their letters out on the fridge when we came over. I bought all different letter blends, cursive letters, and watched curiously as he put them all together in combinations. Sentences, phrases. This is how he taught his brother. Explaining how words worked while little brother looked on.
This article made me question our path.
The story unsettled me, because it made me wonder if, given different choices on our part as parents, my child could have excelled in the same fashion. He definitely has the brain for it; his test scores early on match those of the child in the article.
Instead of seeking out school early, however, we went the public route. As a recovering rule follower myself, I didn’t know there were other options. I didn’t know how to advocate or seek out different opportunities, and truthfully I doubted if he’d be able to handle those advanced situations.
Kindergarten, and every year until 5th grade, didn’t go well. There were behavior issues, not doing work, being bored, being over-challenged in his weaker areas that caused major strife.
From our point of view as parents, it seemed he wasn’t mature enough to handle more complicated situations. I know now, however, that sometimes (often) the behavior and struggle comes from not being engaged or challenged as much as could be.
So, could my son have excelled and be done with college by now? Perhaps. The thing is though, we can’t second guess our choices as parents. We do the best we can with the knowledge and resources we’ve got.
He’s a happy, confident kid.
Now in middle school, he’s excelling in most areas, and encountering the occasional hiccup that kids do. We have to give ourselves a break in having to do things perfectly, or comparing someone else’s experience to ours. Every child is different, and every family has a different set of values, goals, and resources to provide for their kids.
While it’s amazing that the boy in the article is thriving, I need to remember that my son is too. We’re good parents, and so are you! We need to remember that our children haven’t experienced life any other way, so they likely don’t judge it good, bad, or better than anything else. (Provided they’re loved and safe, of course.)
We all second guess ourselves.
Trust that you’re doing the best. Seek out information, make choices that align with your family values and what you believe is best for the child. Listen to the child as well, but you can only do so much. Wondering ‘what if’ sends you down a pointless path of anxiety and second guessing. It’s not worth it. Take what is and move forward with the next best step. Keep learning along the way.