There are few things more painful than watching your grandchildren agonising over something. I mean something serious like how to build a castle, that won't collapse on its inhabitants,.....out of scatter cushions! But no matter how much you feel for them in their moment of crisis, you know that they'll resolve the problem either by simply re-writing the scene or by bringing their floppy fortress to its knees before turning it into a boat.
It's a different matter when your own kids have agonising decisions to make, especially when they are adults and particularly when they are the parents of your grandchildren. If I said that our daughter and her husband had been agonising recently, that would probably be a bit strong, but they've wrestled with the prospect of their two year old starting pre-school next month. They've weighed it up and the upshot is, she won't be going. It isn't a case of not wanting to let go or taking a sideswipe at the system, it's a parental decision based on what they perceive to be their child's best interest. So it's not one that they've taken lightly.
Formal schooling will begin in a couple of years and until then she'll continue to enjoy her present circle of friends whilst attending other new activities two or three times a week. For instance, she'll be learning to swim at a local pool and she'll be bouncing around and making more friends at 'Gym-Tots'. The rest of the time, she can be a little girl with a big imagination that we know and love. She will also gain valuable experience in how to interact with other family members across a range of ages, and especially with her 19 week old twin sisters. At this time in her life we should celebrate the re-casting of the main characters from Peter Pan, the blending of traditional nursery rhymes with snatches of improvised dialogue or offerings of coloured building bricks, each one representing a different flavoured ice-cream. It's magical for us, but it's complete freedom for her. She can continue to create her own wonderful worlds and discover how they fit in with the real one.
My own personal belief is that we aren't all necessarily designed to grow in a 'one size fits all' system. I'm not an educationalist, so I don't have any clever theories that will get the best out of our children. All I can say is, I spent more than eight years as a mature student at undergraduate and postgraduate level, which I enjoyed immensely, but I loathed school as a child. So education holds a mysterious fascination for me, and it remains the subject of hot debate amongst many of those responsible for shaping the road ahead. ( see my recent post 'By Rote', featuring the Ken Robinson video).
Today's parents face much tougher choices than we did. The sheer volume of information (much of it, conflicting), peer pressure and the fear of failure is mind numbing sometimes. All the more reason for grandparents to remain flexible and supportive in their roles.
© 2009, copyright Martin T. Hodges