I really struggled with that question in our early days. I spent hours checking the level my kids should be at across the core academic subjects, either sweating on them catching up or celebrating them being ahead.
But over time a small internal voice started asking questions, growing louder until I just couldn’t ignore it any more:
You have two sons you’re trying to benchmark against one standard, but you know they’re completely different people. That they have different strengths. That one of them will tick the boxes you need but that the other will struggle. That only one of them was born a match for the standard you’re using. Knowing all this…how long will you try and force the boy who doesn’t fit the standard to comply with it? How long will you accept the idea that he’s behind, failing, if he’s not at the required level?
The day I really listened to that voice was the day I started truly appreciating my two boys for who they are.
The first, our eldest, an avid reader, writer and artist. There is not a square inch of his bedroom clear of his own illustrations, and he inhales books as if they give him oxygen. He writes beautifully and has a voracious appetite for creating his own work. He matches and exceeds academic standards in his sleep. He was a delight to his teachers.
The second, his younger brother by just two years, simply cannot spend the time needed at a desk to meet any standard that requires it. He needs to move, to make noise, to express himself physically. He learns by doing, tinkering, exploring, experimenting, by breaking and fixing things, by trial and error. Really, he learns by testing and pushing boundaries – a trait that caused tense parent-teacher meetings while he was at school, but one we’ve since learned actually serves him wonderfully when paired with the freedom to define his own path through life.
What started as a quiet internal voice has become a conviction I’ll shout as far as I can be heard: it’s impossible to fall behind when the main standard you’re asked to meet is to just be you.