Thursday, February 7, 2013


I am a lazy parent. Zao doesn't know numbers or letters or shapes or colors. At least, not that he's indicated yet. I will mention that a particular car is red (sometimes), or that he has two feet (sometimes), but I don't drill him on, well, anything. 

Last night while Zao's Daddy and I were watching tv and just hanging out with the kids, Zao started hauling the tangelos from their basket on the kitchen shelf to the arm of the couch, lining them up and stacking them, as you can see in the pictures below. He mimicked the incantation of my voice counting out numbers, and he counted the tangelos. After counting, he'd run (I mean run) back into the kitchen, grab another one, run back, line it up, and count again. Such fun!

line 'em up 
count 'em out
counting is fun! especially when Mommy counts with you. 

I realized, watching him play this game, that counting is a game, not true evidence of intelligence or smarts. The smarts have always been there. As a parent, I have fallen into this trap of being concerned that my child is going to be smart, and wringing my hands when he can't show off how smart he is so that other parents can see what a good parent I am. (Did that make sense? I'm just getting this off my chest, so bear with me if it's coming out jumbled.) I fully believe I was blessed with the independent, autarchical person of Zao, who refuses to "dance, monkey, dance," so that I can get over worrying what people think about me. Being Zao's Mama isn't about me at all. It's about Zao. His struggles and his successes in life and learning are uniquely his own, and separate from me.

He is smart, because he is a human. He can think, and process information, and adapt, and evolve as he gains that information. He possesses all the necessary faculties to observe the world and learn how it works. At the very basest level, I do not teach him anything. I cannot make the wires cross or connect as needed in his noggin. He teaches himself.

I loved bearing witness to this last night, and I love that he desired my involvement, literally taking my hand and encouraging me to count the tangelos. "See, it's fun, Mom! Do it with me!" 

I can lead, and guide, and live out examples (gulp), but last night's tangelo-counting fun reminded me that if anything, I am more an escort into the world of learning, than a teacher.

“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” 

― John Holt


  1. I applaud you loudly and enthusiastically, Dara!! Do you know how happy this makes your momma? When truths and realizations happen to the parent on how a child actually learns, then that child becomes one of the luckiest kids on the earth.

  2. Love seeing his happy face there! You might think you're lazy, but I think you've nailed the motivator quite clearly there behind that thought..."can't show off how smart he is...". Glad you're gettin' it.