Friday, December 1, 2006

Exceptional Child

Dear Rachel,

I've been re-reading this book over the last week, and I was stopped by a discussion in the chapter about preschoolers that concerned "hothouse children." Many of these kids, later in life, fall apart when they can't maintain their high level of achievement. Now, I was definitely not a hothouse kid, but I did read early, I started piano lessons when I was four, I always did well in school, and I was basically thought of as "the smart kid." You know how this is.

My parents, unlike the parents of hothouse children, never pushed me to achieve. They followed my lead -- I loved to read, they bought more books. I had a talent, they continued to pay for lessons as long as they could. I got all A's, they told me they were proud of me. They encouraged me in everything I chose to do. I never felt from them the pressures that hothouse children feel.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't been a music major. If I had followed the route many "smart kids" do and pursued pre-med or engineering. High school was so easy for me. I never learned to study because I never had to. University was a brand new world, and I was challenged to re-work how I did homework, how I prepared for tests, how I scheduled my time because I wasn't absorbing things as easily. It was a bit of a reality check. I still made it through fairly well, but I wasn't so sure I was a "smart kid" anymore. A bit of my basic self-image was changed forever, but I was still me. If I had tried to go into a more scientific field, would I have been utterly crushed? We may never know.

I do love my life now. I still read voraciously. I (obviously) am still making music. But I'm not an ambitious achiever, and I don't always feel like the smart one. And you know what? That's okay with me.




Peg said...

So reaffirming to read your post, Kim. I am too old for the 'greenhouse child' syndrome, thank heaven. My children were not 'greenhouse children', and that used to worry me, but I am with you - children who are encouraged by families to be what they want to be and given the leeway to choose seem happier. I have watched children who had no 'free time' and they are hopeless in creating activities on their own. Some families spend more time in the car going from one activity to the other that they don't even eat meals together and the 'taxi' driver keeps reminding them of how grateful the child should be and how harried the driver is with all these 'wonderful' activities. How sad is that? Hope you thanked your parents for their support and allowing you to make your own way!

Monica said...

Al and Genia weren't helicopter parents and we certainly weren't hot house children. There were too many of us. We were more like "clobber a sibling, get some attention, the squeaky wheel got some oil" ad nauseum.

My parents didn't even show up to either of my graduations if that's any indication of their hands-off attitude. I think my mom made it to only a handful of our instrumental or theatrical productions.

That being said, if there was something we had the interest and drive to do, they didn't begrudge us the tools.