“Act your age“, I heard myself saying when my daughter recently did something silly the other day. Whatever she did, I don’t particularly recall but I’m certain it wasn’t actually that silly – especially considering that she is only eight. In retrospect my comment was more a reflection of my frustration at that particular moment – something else was irritating me, and I blew something minor into bigger proportions.
Acting one’s age seems to be one of those things at which we are perceived to only ever under– rather than over-deliver. Only an hour earlier, my daughter had sat at at a laptop, produced a beautiful piece of extra homework in PowerPoint, complete with photographs which she had taken on my phone, embedded sections of a map and pictures which she had herself scanned from hard copy. It was all perfectly formatted, and she had taken time to neatly align everything. It was faultless, and the quality far exceeded that which I have seen in many “professional” presentations. Considering the fact that it was only “optional” to do this work, I was impressed that she was doing it.
[Photo courtesy of Sandy Austin, Flickr]
She seems to excel at things which involve technology in the process. Is that because it is easier to do? Or more fun? Or different? For a child who has grown up in the internet age surrounded by technology and encouragement, reading a book on a Kindle isn’t different – it’s the way it’s done. So it’s hard to see why it should be any more fun or easier.
I grew up without ever using a computer to do my homework, in an era when cutting and pasting was messy, and undoing things was easier said than done. Making mistakes was usually a time-consuming business, so careful planning was recommended. I enjoy the technology and what it brings – for me it is different and more fun. Is my enjoyment somehow influencing my daughter’s learning? Perhaps sensing my enjoyment she is being subliminally encouraged to stretch herself beyond her normal boundaries.
The notion that one’s behaviour adapts to one’s surroundings is well understood. Put someone in a pig-sty and they will behave like pigs; put them in an atmosphere conducive to work, and they will work to the best of their abilities. Watching my daughter do her homework, I never heard myself saying (or even thinking) “act your age – you’re only eight and you shouldn’t know how to do all that PowerPoint stuff. You should be messing around and doing silly things“.
Reflecting on this afterwards, I was left with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was proud of her achievements – really proud. On the other I wonder whether she is missing out on something, and whether at some future date I am going to wish she had messed around more as a child. When she tells me that she has researched potential birthday presents and added them to her Amazon WishList, adding “but here’s a printout, Dad, just in case you don’t know how to access it” (she’s a cheeky little monkey), should I wish she would just act her age, or marvel at her progress?