This post is about how my daughter is getting along in school, by and large, in the society. Even at young age my daughter looks forward to go to school. She cherishes the company of other kids, the activities, the order, the routine, the teachers and the whole setting of school. She has picked up a lot of social and behavioural skills from school, along with the germs.
However, there are bits and pieces that my daughter struggles to keep pace with even now. Now, this post is not in support of unschooling. Even MS Word raises objections to the word – there is no such word as unschooling. But more so about how she tries to keep up with some stereotypes and probably forms opinions of the ways of the world in her tiny brain.
These are some of the matters in which my daughter is trying to fit in or learn the ways of life.
Stereotype 1: Princess stuff: Pink is for girls, Blue is for boys.
Kiddo is a young girl and she is expected to dress in pink, own a few Barbie dolls, know all princesses stories and plays and dress up in pink or other soft colours. She came back from school one day “Mamma, my friend X says that I don’t have any Barbie dolls. Can you buy me one?” At the toy store when we offer her a choice to pick between lightning McQueen and a really beautiful Barbie doll, she picks McQueen.
Stereotype 2: Artsy: The rules of colouring.
Kiddo loved to colour outside the lines. She would colour an apple with all the 12 colours in her crayon box. She didn’t know the “rules” of colouring because her mom hadn’t taught her to colour only within the lines. And that the colour of an apple should mostly be red. She brought home the school report which rated her “average” in colouring with her teacher’s remark: ‘Colours outside the line, messes up the page with all colours’. Now kiddo insists on coloring within the lines like her Ms. X says and makes it look pretty – more in line with the rules.
Stereotype 3: Soft and mellow: Girls are delicate little beings.
When kiddo is in a playground, she is all over the place. She jumps up and down on exercise bars, climbs up a slide and uses the ladder to get down, plays in sand, jumps on the potholes, etc. Play time is her time to get down and dirty, not to come back home clean and pretty. Most often than not, I get a remark “Your daughter is very active”. I am not complaining!
Stereotype 4: Academic genius: My boy can read at 3.
Everyone likes to be a step ahead these days. Like the tiger mom Amy Chua had trained her kindergartner in multiplication, division, decimal system and fraction! It is good if your kid is an early starter, but expecting that to be the norm is dangerous. We believe that now is not the time to master math and vocabulary; now is the time to watch TV, sleep a lot, get dirty in playground and eat lots of chocolates and in general letting my daughter be a 4-year-old.
Stereotype 5: Foreign Traditions and practices: Indian lifestyle in a foreign land
Our kiddo is a typical confused desi. As she is growing up outside India, she is confused by various languages, traditions, practices and religious beliefs. Our insistence to enroll her in local schools (and not Indian) adds to her confusion. Kiddo has no clue of our race or religion yet. For now, Deepawali is celebrated with same enthusiasm as Christmas.
We are vegetarians in a country where, monkey brain and ox tail are delicacies. Such practices puzzle her. She has understood that there are two types of people – vegetarians and ‘egeterians – the one who eats meat’. She proudly tells everyone now that she is a vegetarian and she eats a lot of vegetables.
There are times when kiddo is very anxious and there are times when she is very much at ease and confident. Each one of us is very different though we have common things. I hope she understands this soon enough. She is in such an age where she absorbs everything like a sponge. She surprises us with her reasoning. She learns and understands at a rate so high that even we are left baffled at times.
We only expect basic things out of her – to be kind, to behave well (most of the times) and to be respectful towards others. As parents, we have only one challenge – to provide her with the things she needs while continuously challenging her to grow and master new skills.
Divya Rao is a mother to a 4 yr old bundle of joy. She has one eye set on growing her career and the other watching and enjoying her little one grow up.