One of my newest favorite things is taking our daughter ice skating. She loves it so, so much. We went for the first time about a month ago. I didn’t know what to expect. I had never really exposed her to ice skating before, like on TV, but I came across a great deal online for a 10-visit punch card to the local skating rink. It sounded like a fun winter activity. First of all, I was amazed by how comfortable she was walking in ice skates right from the beginning. Then she was asking to let go of my hand on our third go-round. This time she spent most of her time hands-free, on her own, and having a blast. And here’s where the zero fear of failure comes in: Every time she fell down she thought it was hilarious! With every plop onto her hands or butt she had a huge smile on her face. She loved every tumble, stumble, and fall. She waved her arms around to keep her balance – but really because she was already practicing dance moves. She managed several pirouettes, as well, with arms raised in fifth position and all.
Aside from her pure joy, there are two things that really made me happy: One, the positivity in her fearlessness, and two, catching a glimpse of budding talent. Regarding the first, you must know that our daughter is very ritual driven. She likes to control things and do them properly (wonder where she gets that from… apropos my last post). She’s quite particular and can get grumpy and impatient pretty easily. She also tends to fear the new, which of course is not unusual for a preschooler her age. So while I didn’t give it much thought beforehand, I did expect the occasional “aw, I just can’t do it!” to come out of her mouth. She’s starting to experience embarrassment if something unexpected happens to her in public (e.g. she falls and hurts herself). But here, not a single bit of negativity or can’t-do. Regarding the second thing, I’m very intrigued by the evolution of talents in children. We envision our kids doing this and that, mostly in accordance with the strengths they display today. But who knows what propensities they’ll develop?! Who knows what little moment of something they’ll catch that we don’t even notice, and it will be the spark that they remember 20 years later that got them started in pursuing a life long passion? I have no idea if she’ll continue to love ice skating, but it’s fun to imagine the possibilities, and to facilitate and accompany her on that journey.
I remember going to an evening lecture on the foundations of Montessori education, and somewhere towards the end someone raised the issue of self-motivation. The person mentioned that they’ve experienced some Montessori educated kids having trouble pursuing a hobby with any discipline because of how they’re encouraged to pursue their own interests more strongly than others, sometimes putting interest ahead of discipline or practice. A relatively heated debate ensued about whether to force kids to continue to pursue an interest that they lose gumption for, say, four years into it. You know, they turn 12 and playing the violin is just not cool anymore, or it’s deposed by the latest crushes or the newest pop stars. I’m still torn about my feelings on the subject. I guess I believe there’s a happy medium between letting the child choose, and conveying how practice is key if you want to become really good at something. When our daughter starts honing in on some of her passions, I surely hope to find that sweet spot.