When YK told me his classmate got picked to do his internship at Stanford University, I was so impressed and a little envious.
"Woah, he must be so smart!"
"Yup, extremely. He knows everything about physics. In fact, he almost became a Mensa member. Too bad he's only short of 1 point. You know Mensa?"
"But of course!"
In fact, I also know about Stanford and the top 20 universities in the world. When he was about 3 years old, I already had the top 20 list pasted before me on my workdesk.
It is every parent's hope to raise a smart kid. When YK was born, I picked a world-globe lamp for his nursery hoping that the first words he could utter was "Alaska" instead of googoogaga. What was I thinking? Do they even understand the concept of the world without stepping out of their own homeland or crib?
I was so pleased when they started collecting country erasers when they were young. They had hundreds! At 5, they could identify every country flag. SK suggested going to Monaco or Lithuania for our next vacation because the flags are nice.
Anyway, I learned to adjust and manage my expectations along the way. After attending workshops and seminars, I discovered that there are multiple types of intelligence. Armed with the knowledge, it became easy for me to identify my kids' talents.
Even for a pretty free-spirited mum, I can become quite anxious when it comes to education.
When SK turned 6, he could not read even after spending many years in nursery school and kindergarten. In my desperate attempt to prepare him for primary school, I sent him to phonics class at a Montessori school. It was a big deal then because Montessori was just introduced in Singapore. After spending thousands of dollars, he still couldn't read when he started primary 1. It must have been difficult for him.
Suddenly one day, when I was reading The Straits Times, he stood behind me and read the heading out aloud. I almost fell off my chair! Then I made him read the entire article and he did it without making any mistakes. From then on, he had no trouble reading.
At 6, he probably wasn't ready to go to school just yet. Perhaps that explains why he dutifully hid his Chinese homework in the storeroom everyday until the teacher marched up to his older brother one day.
"Tell your mummy that SK has not been handing up his Chinese writing for months!"
YK was so angry when he came home that he made SK lead us to the storeroom where we found an entire stack of homework. His father made him sit and write non-stop. The poor kid couldn't stop sobbing, leaving puddles of tears on his freshly written Chinese characters.
Chinese has always been his biggest bugbear in school. Until now, he hasn't mastered the language despite learning it for 16 years. I wonder if it has anything to do with the trauma of writing endlessly when he was 6?
On the other hand, his math has improved by leaps and bounds. While every child is expected to memorise the multiplication table by the time they are about 7, he was still struggling with it when he was 10. The tuition teacher would drill and yell to no avail. Naturally, he never did well in math.
Somehow, he began to grasp the concepts when he became a teenager. Suddenly, he was aceing his math papers. In fact, math is one of his favourite subjects today.
When I look back, I realise that while it natural for a parent to be anxious, what we really should do is to identify their talents and allow them to develop at their pace. Every child is gifted in some way, as long as he is properly guided and taught the right values, he will be fine.
If he can't get a place in Stanford, that's perfectly ok too.