This is my oldest. He's a sweet boy, who loves drawing, reading and dinosaurs (which is why he is roaring in this photo). He is also quite the introvert, who is very resistant to change. Previously, it took him about half an hour before he would start warming up to his friends during playdates, and he preferred to play on his own. He was never keen on any of the kid activities (so we hardly attended any of those blogger invites). He got upset if any of our plans were changed.
So I was rather apprehensive about signing up for the Children's craft fair. Making crafts was definitely not a problem. Selling them, and talking to strangers (and lots of them) was. I wondered if he would be able to cope with being in a room with a crowd of people, and having to talk to people he did not know.
I prepped him for the fair, and kept telling him he would have to tell strangers about his crafts, and collect money and return the correct change. He said he wasn't too keen about that, but we kept making crafts and I kept praying. And praying.
Then the day of the craft fair came. The room was rather small, and boy was it crowded! We set up our stall, and to my surprise, this boy stayed on for almost the whole of the first hour to man it. He didn't ask to go. He didn't hide behind me. He helped to sell his bead creations, as well as his friends' stuff. He collected money, he returned change (he needed some help with that), he answered questions from strangers.
My heart really swelled with thankfulness, looking at my boy standing there selling his crafts. This was the boy whom people would tell us to send to school, so that he could "learn to be more sociable" (because he would clam up with those adults whom he wasn't familiar with). This was the boy, who used to stand at the side and refuse to participate when we visited new places. The one who said "no" to everything unfamiliar. And there he was, talking to strangers, selling his bead magnets.
That day, I said a prayer of thanksgiving. Of God's faithfulness in growing this little boy. And I was so thankful. For His grace in putting us in an environment where this boy could blossom slowly, in his own time. For a homeschooling community that allowed opportunities like this. For friends who understood, and gave him room to grow socially and emotionally, while giving us support and love. For little friends who accepted him for who he is.
We tend to have expectations as parents, many coming from our general understanding of children, and from looking at the children around us. So many times, we get disappointed because our own children don't fit into that regular mold of expectations. They don't pick up reading as fast as your friend's kid, who was reading at three. They can't seem to sit still and do a worksheet even though they are already six. They can't focus in class beyond twenty minutes. They don't like painting, or reading. They are not interested in learning the violin. They struggle with adding two and three, and need to use their fingers to do their sums. They don't seem to be able to play with more than three friends at a time, and dislike big events. We compare and we worry if our kid can ever catch up.
And then we have the internet. We read blogs, we browse social media. We are told we can get our kids to achieve this by doing these three things. We read success stories. We start believing that each child can be extraordinary, in every area, if we could just find the best programmes, the best classes, the best schools, the best parenting methods. And we forget that beside every prodigy and success story, are hundreds of ordinary children. Ordinary, but special in their own way.
That day, as I stood there, rummaging in the money box for coins, looking at my oldest, I was reminded that for parenting, it is more a matter of time when it comes to achieving skills and milestones. Yes, there are the guidelines for what skills your child should master by a certain age. There are these expectations. But these are just guidelines and expectations, which shouldn't enslave us, or our kids. Given the room to grow and learn, your kids would achieve those life skills eventually. That day, watching my son stand tall behind his tray of magnets, I learnt that once we learn that it is a matter of time, we begin to enjoy that journey of growing our kids so much more.