We have the most fabulous aquarium here in Long Beach, and we take our kids on a regular basis. We go so often that we are familiar with almost all the creatures that live there, and we are past the point where I need to direct my kids attention. We go for an hour or two at a time and I let their interest and attention spans guide the day. Sometimes we gravitate towards the sea lions, and others they just want to sit in the little cutout under the penguin habitat and watch the birds swim above them. On our most recent trip, they were all about the touch tanks. We looked, we touched, we tried to keep Abram from injuring the poor little creatures, and we splashed a bit in the water. I pointed out a red sea anemone with white polka dots to my daughter. “Look Lila! This one looks like it’s wearing Minnie Mouse’s dress!” She giggled and touched its bumpy surface.
Then here comes Hyper Academic mom.
You know the one I’m talking about. She is here on a mission to teach her child all the things. Her little guy could not be more than three years old, and still I hear her quizzing him incessantly. While we’re pointing out Minnie Mouse over here, I hear her say “Xavier, I want to see how many animals you can identify in this touch tank.” Little Xavier points to a
starfish sea star. “Good,” she prods, “and what is its genus and classification?”
What. The. Hell. I sure don’t know the answer to that question. Heck, I doubt the man running the sea star touch tank could even give you the answer to the question. I could hear her pushing and pushing to get more information out of her kid, and it made me wonder-
Can’t we just let them be little for a little while?
Like, can we just let the kid touch the things? Does everything have to be an opportunity to push more, to go further, and to exceed expectations? Granted, I don’t know their backstory- maybe little Xavier has a fascination with sea life, maybe his mom is a marine biologist, maybe there’s SOME REASON why this is happening. But maybe? Maybe she thinks this is what she HAS to do, and that just makes me sad.
As a former teacher, I think people expected that my kids would be over-the-top little academics. And honestly? They’re not. They are bright, and funny, and fiery; they are kind (usually), self-reliant, and resourceful. They are not little fact-givers. They are not rocket scientists. And they are NOT able to name the genus and classification of the roughly 12,000 animals that live at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
We spend our days painting and coloring and walking on curbs. We take trips to the park, and spend too much time watching TV. We cuddle and give tickles and dig our toes into sand, and we use toddler words to describe the things that are happening in their lives. They are not little scholars. They are 5 and two years old, and I am loving this age.
So I’m okay with them acting their age.
But still, I’ll congratulate Xavier’s mom on his vocabulary and knowledge, because maybe she needs that, and his little lisp did made the genus Asteria sound particularly adorable. And my kids? Well, we’ll keep using words like “squishy” and “humongous,” we’ll learn about being kind to creatures big and small, and we’ll keep looking for Sponge Bob in the Pacifc Rim Exhibit.
And I think they’ll all turn out just fine.