Quite recently, there was an interesting – and comforting – article about parenting in the local paper. The one thing that stuck to my mind about it was that some research expert – probably a Fellow at some Institute – noted that we, human mothers and fathers, tend to forget – and overrate at the same time – our own childhood by the time we’ve become mothers and fathers.
When we also overrate our own children’s abilities.
The result: We rush our kids into doing things.
They play organized sports or different instruments younger than their parents because the parents mistakenly think that they were playing sports at that age, too.
The Fellow in the paper said that parents often think they took up soccer or hockey when they were six, when, in fact, they might have been eight years old.
And, a lot can happen in those two years.
That happened to me when people started to ask me about the son, and whether he played hockey. (He doesn’t.) When I started to think back, I realized that I was already in third grade when I joined the local hockey team in Helsinki, even if I may have told people that I was six when I began playing hockey.
Sorry about that. My only excuse: I may have thought so myself.
And from now on, whenever I say that I’ve done anything by the age of five or six, you’d be better off asking my mother about it. I obviously don’t remember much about the time before that.
What did I do when I was six?
For one, I didn’t really run to school barefoot, but I did climb trees. I didn’t play hockey, but I wore goalie masks my Dad had made me. I didn’t ski, I did ride a bike. Couldn’t swim, and had almost drowned once.
Now, the son is Boy Wonder, who, every day, amazes me with his verbal and logical abilities. There’s a funny sentence, an interesting thought, or a train of thought that leaves me standing on the platform with my mouth open.
And yet, he’s only six. Not everything is easy.
Boy Wonder walks with his hands behind his back and whistles. But when he “whistles”, he actually makes a sound with his mouth. “O-o-oo”.
He can snap his fingers and yell, “Eureka!”. But when he “snaps his fingers”, the sound you hear is: Shhh-shhh.
(I remember spending days trying to learn the coolest of whistles: the fingerless, yet loud one. I was 12.)
And while the Boy Wonder is fluent in two languages, and has traveled dozens of times between Finland and Sweden, the concept of a nation state, and the geographical location of things in the world are a little blurry.
Today, we were on a bike ride in the hood, and realized that we were hungry. There was a hot dog stand next to the mall, Boy Wonder noted, but “McDonald’s would be better.” Unfortunately, or not, depending on your perspective on that particular fast food chain, there is no McDonalds in our mall, so we had to think of the second best alternative.
At that point my street smart son said that he’d seen a Hesburger just around the corner.
Good news: He was thinking outside the box, and was solving a problem.
Bad news: Hesburger is a Finnish fast food chain that has no franchises in Sweden – which is where we were. But, I didn’t say anything when he hopped on his little bike and took off on an expedition to find the Hesburger.
A few minutes later, he rode back and told me that he’d been mistaken. There probably wasn’t a Hesburger, after all. Instead, he knew which place he was thinking about and he wanted to show it to me.
“It wasn’t a Hesburger, it’s called Sam’s Kebab and Pizza, but it’s right here,” he said.
“Oh yeah, now I remember. Do you want a kebab? Do you know what a kebab is?”
And he still doesn’t, because we turned around, rode our bikes back home, and drove to McDonald’s.
I can honestly say that the reason I take my kids to McDonalds is not to have them do what I did when I was a kid. See, when I was six, I never drove to McDonald’s with my Dad.
When I was six, there were no McDonald’s franchises in Finland.
Well, no pizzerias or kebab places, either.