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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

36. Finding balance

One of my readers shared his concerns after reading “Shooting for the moon”.  He spoke about the sacrifices ‘achievers’ have to make and how relationships can take a back seat in the journey to attainment and vice versa.  I wrote back, “Ah.. But ‘balance’ is another mantra I constantly drum into my children”.

When we first started our family and up till the day Faith started primary school, Matt and I were very relaxed about education, in the mistaken belief it would benefit her.  Our thought was along the “Ah, but she’s still so little!  Plenty of time to get serious later.”  And for a time, we let our toddler lead us in what and how to occupy her.  When she started school, she showed little interest in books and trailed far behind her peers.  Worried, we had her hearing tested and then wondered if the lag was because she was the youngest in her year and therefore a late bloomer.  We even had educational experts test her in case there was a more serious problem.

When we moved to London, after a few weeks at her new school, Faith came home one day and declared she was the most stupid person in her class.  It broke my heart and I felt I had failed her.  But still, we didn’t want to resort to tutors and just encouraged her to ‘do her best’.  A few years later, a year before all the girls’ sat their critical 11+ exams, I found out the smartest (and very well-rounded) girl in the year had regular tuition.  That’s when I thought, “Holy!  If the smartest girl is getting tuition, I am doing Faith a great disservice by not employing the same support for her!”  I found a really wonderful tutor and watched Faith’s confidence and grades rise dramatically.  My main satisfaction came from the lessons Faith absorbed: a. she wasn’t ‘stupid’; and b: nothing was impossible without some elbow grease.  Yes, she had to make sacrifices for two hours on a Saturday and more often just before  exams.  But in return, she gained offers from all three schools she applied to and was in a position to choose the one most suited to her personality.  She continues to flourish and we are filled with pride as we watch her navigate different situations with grace and determination.

I know, I know.  I am yet to get to the ‘balance’ bit.  Today, we still let the girls lead us in what they want to do BUT, by monitoring their natural talents, we gently steer them, and employ support to nurture and develop if required.  And as I look at their outside-of-school schedules, I see they have a balance in sports (tennis and swim training), music, language (French and Chinese).  Yes, it is busy.  But besides the ‘must do’ (language, music, tennis and swim), the girls have picked activities that interest them (dance and voluntary service for Faith, choir for Tia, and clay making and science club for Paige).   I now feel like I am protesting too much so let me just stop now and instead insert a section of the book I am working on which I feel is relevant to this piece:

Balance: I can almost hear you all sigh as I bring up “balance”.  I don’t know how old you will be when you finally read this but remember how I’ve been telling you guys about the importance of balance in your lives?  I still hear you cheekily asking me if “too much homework is also bad for you”.  My answer then, and my answer now, is “yes”.  Too much of ANYTHING is bad for you.  Too much food.  Too much sleep.  Too much alcohol.  Too much tv.  Too much work.  Too much play.  The list goes on and on.  Point is, too much OR too little of anything is not  good.

Throughout your lives, at different points in time, due to whatever is happening, you will find that you are either doing too much or too little of something.  That is  normal.  What you do next is important.  If it is impossible to adjust the glut or deficit right there and then, make a commitment to address it within a certain amount of time.  Be realistic with your timing but make sure you stick to it.  Don’t wait until its too late and the imbalance takes over your life.

And so, for now, our ongoing dinner table discussions about ‘balance’ seem to be working relatively well for the girls as I watch them make healthy choices; and though I am sure it will be an ongoing trek where they will veer in all sorts of directions, it is my hope this coaxing will endure and develop into a natural tendency. 


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