As Kirsten wrote in her travel itinerary last Sunday, I do have a tale to tell you, rather my son does.
It is the story of the boy and the apple tree. It’s a very popular story in India and was recently read by my son’s teacher during one of the Parent Teacher meetings.
Let me get on to the beginning of the story. I was called to school one day and informed that my son was selected to represent the school for a story telling competition.
The criteria for selecting him was that he had a great vocabulary, good command over the English language (we are non native speakers), and well… once he starts speaking about a particular subject, he just keeps going. I was glad and proud to hear all this.
But story? Excuse me?
Would I be able to teach him a complete story, and would he be able to reproduce it in the same way? And, representing the school, well, would not be bad, but we would not want to disappoint the school, so we’d have to help him practice.
The story of the boy and the apple tree was chosen because it is an ancient story with a moral that is well-known to people, and even if he slips somewhere, it may not get noticed. Well, we decided to narrate it. He was expected to act out the story too.
And I was instructed by his teacher to get some props ready so that he can use them while actually telling the story to make this whole drama interesting for the kids and earn us more goody points from the judges.
Check out the apple tree props made from thermocol, cardboard, and paper mache in the photo above. And below, you can also see the wooden toys, house, boat and stump of the tree from the story.
You know, the story is not as sad as it appears to be on wiki if told in a particular way. I should boast of my son’s convincing skills to let the audience believe that the story indeed was very cheerful and joyful for little boys like him. (I will post a video soon.)
Well, long story short – our story won third place, and there were over fifty participants in this event. To be honest, we had actually not stayed back for the results to be announced. There were around fifty children narrating beautiful stories, and at least five children narrating the same apple tree story.
My son did not emote too well, I should admit (there were amazing five-year girls who emoted as if they were auditioning for a movie — very impressive). He halted at one place. And then, he restarted a sentence because he decided to catch someone’s eye. He had an Indian accent. He still did not care much to pronounce certain phonetics as they should be. He tended to go back to baby lisping at times. Oh, there were flaws. Some easily noticeable, some very minor, but all present.
I should also say, there were a lot of positives. His English grammar was perfect. He chose his own words (and vocabulary) even though I had made him memorize the story according to wiki. (He is only five, come on.) He speaks Tamil (my mother tongue) and English so fluently. This also reminds me of a few posts and discussions we have had over multilingualism by Alison, Ambrefrench, Asta and few others.
I do not think he was the best five-year old story-teller. He was a child and let himself be a child and narrated a story in such a way another child would love to hear it. He loved the story himself, and he spoke with a conviction that any other child would love to know this particular story.
He was natural up there on the stage, rather than prepared or memorized. I was happy that he was self-assured when addressing a hundred plus people (toddlers and parents). I was glad that he was a mature five-year old (if you know what I mean), rather than a practiced story-teller for a competition.
I think people today are changing too, because the judges decided that he should get a prize, too. We did not tell him that it was a competition and that he should be doing his ‘best’ and ‘win’. Our son was, after all, still a baby. Why should he compete with other five-year old babies? This was supposed to be fun. This was supposed to be a game where everyone talks on stage or narrates a story.
I think the idea of competition is outdated in today’s community of parents who want to bring up confident, socially friendly and mentally nurtured individuals. People do best what they love to do and more so believe in themselves.
Each one of us has something special and unique within ourselves. Oh yes, there is some degree of healthy competition needed to bring out the best in oneself, but well, someday when I think he is old enough for that, I will speak to my son about it.
How old is your child and what is (s)he good at? And would you let him/her compete with other children? If so at what age?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The Alchemist, our Indian mother writing from Chennai, India. Her contributions to the World Moms Blog can be found here. She also rambles at The Alchemist’s Blog.
Photo credit to the author.
My oldest daughter is 5 years old. If it was school based, I would have no problem with her competing. I think it builds character, but I also live in a very competitive and individualistic society in the US, so that my be my bias. I remember as a child I competed in “mental marathon” competitions within my elementary school — we had to do logic problems, solve tangrams, etc. It was a lot of fun!
Here, we call the story “The Giving Tree.” We happen to also have the French version and it’s “L’Arbre Genereux.”
I enjoyed hearing about your son telling the story. Good for him! He had to be brave to get up in front of so many people!! 🙂
Thank you Jen. The entire week was actually fun and we had a great time.
I agree that such competitions build character in a structured school environment. I am looking forward to similar opportunities where I slowly let him in on the idea of, “You win some, you lose some”… and the spirit of a sport is to play it well.
Congrats to A! I know how proud you must be feeling.
Thanks for visiting and commenting, Melanie.
Yes, it sure is a sweet moment 🙂
When my girls were younger, we did a lot of “activities.” I write “activities” because what started as socialization has turned into something much more. Since I worked both in and outside the home, I wanted to do things with them when I was able. In addition, I wanted some alone time with each child – As twins, they were always volleying for my time.
We started with swimming. This was more of a must for me – I am passionate that children should learn how to swim. (So many children die each year from not having been taught the basics in the water.)
We added “mommy and me” gymnastics – which they loved! Soon came dance and soccer. (No, not all these were done all year round – but whenever they showed an interest in something, I happily let them try it.)
Today, one of my daughters excels in both swimming and gymnastics – the other is very good, but likes more of the social aspect than anything else. What I found out quickly is that when you truly excel at “something” – the fun turns quickly into cut-throat competition … (even at 5 ½.)
We still do a lot of these activities, but have passed on invitations to elite gymnastics and swim teams. The time commitment, to any of these activities, would greatly affect the joy that they get from dabbling in a “little bit” of everything.
As they get a little older, they may want to focus on one thing over another – but I want that to be their choice. ( And yes, I would support whatever they wanted to do and be there to cheer them on every step of the way.) However, right now, I just keep reassuring them that “having fun and doing their best” is the only thing I care about.
Reading your story made me so proud for your son – but what struck me even more is your ability to keep him grounded in a competitive situation. That is awesome! I am surrounded by mothers that seem to want their child to excel at all costs – especially gymnastics! I have to wonder if these mothers are attempting to live through their children – it is sad.
I wish your daughters good luck in swimming and gymnastics. I am sure they have a lot of fun. Glad that you seem to relate to the idea of having fun in any activity rather than ‘competing’. Yes, at 5 1/2 having fun seems more appropriate.
Cheers to your son’s wonderful story telling! That’s a great moment, and you share the story beautifully.
My older son is just shy of 6 years old, and he is now playing organized sports. My mantra before his games goes: “Be respectful. Try your best. And most importantly, have fun!” And afterwards, I always find something specific to praise him on and let him know I am proud of him, win or lose.
But I had to address competitiveness with him way before this age. It started from playing simple kid boardgame like Chutes & Ladders, because someone does win. He would be upset if it wasn’t him, so we had to talk about what it means to be a good sport. How do you celebrate respectfully when you win, and how do you graciously lose. We also talk alot about self esteem…that he is so talented in many areas but that doesn’t mean he will always “win.”
And it popped up at his preschool with classmates shouting “I’ll race you to the slide!” My son needed help with this too, as he isn’t the fastest and felt badly if he “lost.” But there is something to be said for learning you will lose from time to time, and it’s not the end of the world. We also talked about his emerging talents…like riding a 2 wheeler at an early age and being an above level reader.
And even now, his soccer league does NOT track who wins or loses games at the 6 year old level. The coaches and parents always say that they are all just out there for fun, and we cheer for them no matter how they actually perform. But the kids know. After each game, they talk about whether they won or lost based on goals scored. Just because we tell them it doesn’t matter and we aren’t tracking, it matters to them, and they are tracking. It helps that I also play soccer, so I can talk to him about the games I have won or lost and whether I played well or poorly. I try to model a really positive competitive attitude.
So, I agree with you 100% with not pushing pressured competition too early on a kid. We need to let them be kids, learn what they enjoy and do well, and feel successful. But at the same time, in my experience, some level of competition is going on around them through playful interaction, so I think having some discussion around it from a young age can be a good thing. And I think kids can learn alot and enjoy themselves in healthy, supported competition.
I sure agree with you whole heartedly. Some level of awareness about competition and knowledge about winning/losing/being in good spirit/etc is very important.
I really admire your soccer club. It seems awesome, both the coaches and parents.
Congratulations to you and your son! I really like what you said about maturity vs sophistication – I am *very* passionate about differentiating between these two characteristics.
As for competition: we have chosen a school where competition is downplayed and co-operation emphasised and our boys don’t play a competitive sport until they are nine years old (and won’t compete in any other ‘acitivity’ until they chose to do so – teen years at the earliest) .
However, I do think that the strength of character which comes from losing when we are (older) children is very important, and learning how to win gracefully is also important. So a life with no competitive element is also something I wouldn’t chose for the boys.
Thank you Karyn.
Yes, competition Vs winning and losing is a delicate balance to achieve in today’s cut-throat world. I agree with you – we definitely have to introduce competition to the kids in a nice way so that they turn out to be confident young adults.
Congratulation to your son 🙂
I remember from my childhood that we started poem saying competition as young as 8 years. It was in school during Polish language classes. Once for a while we had to memorize a short poem (the oldest we got the longest those poems had to be) and say in out lound in front of our class. After that we were valuated by the teacher, sometimes by the class. Everybody had to participate, no matter what. If the child didn’t memorize or said it really bad he/she would get the lowest grade. I hated it…. .
Polish Mama, Thanks 🙂
Oh I totally understand. I was very good at it, because I naturally loved English poems. But my friend hated it and I always felt sad for her..
And I was not great in the regional language poem competition, but she was.. But I really hated the regional language poetry reading days… because I couldnt pronounce certain words correctly… and ended up being laughed at, at times… 🙁 I so relate to this …
I’m so glad that you recognize that your child just needs to be a child and you let him be himself.
Good for you!
Thanks Multitaking Mama 🙂
Sorry, I am late in replying to you all. Was out of internet accessibility for a few days.
I think competition is okay as long as the kids aren’t pushed into it.