In secondary school, Chelsea Ramjit, 22, was teased for being rambunctious and walking “like a boy”. Other cruel taunts came her way.
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Children go to school to learn, but the real schooling is ours
Last term was Ziya’s first in school and more importantly my first. I was completely unprepared on registration day. Had no clue. School supplies? Ummm. This term, yuh girl checked off the list like I studied for that gold star. Who’s learning now, baby!
There with the other parents, I was amazed that somehow we manage to bring up children without group therapy sessions or domino-effect disasters, the business of parenting, at once so mundane and been-there-done-that for the last 200,000 years, also seeming like everyday, parental A-level exams.
Today, a speech and language therapist came to talk about dos and don’ts, and the importance of getting children tested. By three years old, she emphasised, lisps, mispronunciation, language fears and even baby talk are no longer cute, but show potential problems that need attention. These can result in shyness, lack of confidence, greater conflict and an inability to be understood in your child’s interactions with others. All kinds of things can contribute, from thumb-sucking to bottle-feeding beyond a year to just sheer bad habits when talking to our children.
I must have been sitting there like the other parents, glassy-eyed and reviewing the last months’ memories, to see if there were signs I missed or don’ts I was guilty of. Like most parents of three-year-olds, I couldn’t imagine how anything could be wrong with the speech of someone who literally talks so much she once stopped herself to comment on how talkative she was. When you comment on your own talkativeness, you know harnessing that kind of chat could give T&TEC competition.
But, I had to reflect. Were they just words or whole sentences? Did I ask her yes or no questions, or did I ask questions that required full conversation answers? Do I really know if she hears well in both ears? Did I really ever pay attention to her eyesight?
Because most parents are busy, tired, multi-tasking and preoccupied with being broke, even conscientious ones may not notice everything. Children also adapt and learn to compensate, making up words, pointing, choosing silence, reading lips and so on. Plus, they are usually moving so much and so dizzyingly that, really, watching them is like feeling warm and fuzzy about a loud, overly exuberant, endlessly awake blur.
I love that the school tries to teach parents. Some may know all this stuff from raising siblings or from having prior children or just from having it together. Not me. I know about books, rivers, vegetarian food and rhyming. Oh, and feminism. That’s my skill set. Stone knows about DJing and music. The rest is all aha moments we didn’t expect. So, I find myself learning about parenting, schooling, developmental stages, and both tough and tender love as Ziya moves through each term.
What’s nice is that such learning can bring parents together too. I whatsapped Stone, who was home on shift with Zi, throughout the whole morning parents’ session, though I figured that the principal probably looked askance at my bad example of texting through class. When I got home, Stone and I sat like two tired people assessing the steepness of the terrain ahead. We worked out how to join forces, compared notes and different perspectives, and sorted out who would be better at what.
I feel like I covered a whole syllabus before Ziya even started her school term. Surviving morning traffic for the next term feels like just the opening challenge in the labour and lessons of life-long learning.