The day before yesterday, as I was writing jokes about Ivy League geniuses, I received a video from Wang Chai. It was a vlog featuring a child playing football. Watching it left me at a loss for words.
The child in the video had very limited talent! At the age of 7, his dribbling skills around cones were clumsy. While others effortlessly curved the ball with a single kick, he had to chase the ball for three or four steps before catching up and making the next turn.
The way he lifted his leg and kicked the ball was stiff, almost like a plastic doll. It made you worry that the next thing flying off wouldn’t be the ball but his own leg…
I rarely make definitive judgments about a child’s potential, but judging from his lack of coordination, his future in football seems quite limited. The vlog was quite long, documenting his training journey over several months. Through rain or shine, he tirelessly worked on his physical fitness, from building basic strength to persistent shooting practice…
At the age of 9, he finally started to show some improvement. His father shared this story of his growth.
After watching the video, I couldn’t help but ask Wang Chai, “Do you think he practiced so hard because he loves football?”
Wang Chai, a devoted football enthusiast who played despite being beaten as a child and endured two torn ligaments in his middle age, pondered for a moment and replied, “It’s probably because of the chickens.”
Oh, if it were my son, I would have given up long ago. Not because he lacks talent or because effort is meaningless, but because he doesn’t truly enjoy it! It’s only to fulfill the wishes of his parents.
Could it be that they possess divine determination?
It’s hard for parents to avoid having excessive expectations for their children. Even I, when my son was only two years old, fantasized about him being Stanford material in the future.
I even thought to myself, “If he gets into Stanford, I’ll proudly be a Stanford mom! How would I share my success story with others?”
Perhaps, it’s time for me to start summarizing his stages of growth, such as considering early development when he couldn’t speak at the age of three, a sign of intelligence.
Perhaps, I should document every step of his learning journey. At the age of five, fluently expressing opinions in English, reading “Records of the Grand Historian” at six, and studying calculus in fifth grade.
Perhaps, I should humbly acknowledge that my child’s success is purely their own talent (a natural genius), and I simply supported their hobbies. I haven’t done anything for them…
However, as my younger sibling grows each day, I realize that I had set my expectations too high. Let alone getting into Stanford, even getting into a decent high school is not easy…
At the age of five, my older sister could communicate with foreign teachers in English, while he can only sing a nursery rhyme taught by his sister, “Brown Bear.”
His mathematical abilities at six are far from impressive; he can barely comprehend Arabic numerals. The girl next door can mentally calculate two-digit addition and subtraction, while he hasn’t even learned basic addition and subtraction with two numbers.
Before starting preschool, my sister had a vocabulary of over 800 words and could read books with pure text, while he struggles to recognize a few big characters. Even “Wang Chai,” who usually ignores children’s academic achievements, can’t sit still: “This son might end up being useless, idle all day, not knowing anything.”
So, he made an effort to catch up, but all he gained was chaos and frustration between father and son.
“Wang Chai” is very dissatisfied and shouts at me, “Can’t you pay a little more attention to him?”
His reaction made me think, “Are you a first-time father?” Have you forgotten all your previous experiences?
Before my sister started elementary school, she learned subjects like language, math, English, ballet, piano, calligraphy, taekwondo, and even LEGO robotics. But what difference did it make? By the fourth grade, she was just an ordinary student.
Her early literacy skills and advanced reading abilities once made me proud. We all know that reading is crucial in elementary education. But she didn’t become an avid reader just because her old mother prepared her for it.
It’s evident that she prefers scrolling through Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) rather than reading books.
This is the greatest dilemma parents face: you always hope to shape their development according to your plans, but they will inevitably grow their own branches and tendrils.
So, would you choose to prune them?
Most parents would. Their logic is: if they don’t do homework, study extra exercises, or participate in extracurricular tutoring, their grades will be worse than others. They won’t be able to attend a good high school, get into a prestigious university, find a good job, or make money in the future…
Because “earning money = good job = prestigious university = doing homework,” everything unrelated to academics must be pruned. That is being responsible for the child’s future, for their own good.
But does reality really work that way?
Many people believed that becoming a programmer would bring wealth, so they encouraged their children to study computer science. However, we have witnessed a widespread unemployment crisis among programmers in the past year.
A large number of graduates from Tsinghua University rushed into the established system, thinking that stability could be found within government and corporate positions. However, we now see widespread salary reductions even within the system, with teachers unable to escape the impact.
Academic achievements cannot always surpass innate talent, and in the selection process of prestigious universities, intelligence holds a crushing advantage…
In the “qingbei” (referring to Tsinghua University and Peking University) hierarchy, high school students find themselves at the bottom. Out of over 4,000 admitted freshmen each year, half are taken by those with strong foundations, exceptional abilities, and achievements in Olympiads.
Even climbing the ivy doesn’t make a difference.
These past few days, as I’ve been reviewing materials, I’ve been amazed: perfect standardized test scores, sky-high GPAs, accolades in over a dozen AP exams and the AMC. High school students publishing poetry collections, tackling complex mathematical problems, engaging in research with world-renowned professors, and publishing papers in international journals…
Discussions in parent groups have shifted from how to climb the ladder to curiosity about how it’s possible to accomplish all of these things within 24 hours. After all, just dealing with homework leaves us exhausted.
It seems that the equation in parents’ minds doesn’t hold true. So why not allow children to have more branches and tendrils? Perhaps these branches and tendrils are where their true talents lie.
Principal Mingyue Xie shared a fascinating story recently. There was a child in the school who had won first place in the AMC (American Mathematics Competition) for three consecutive years, but had never attended a single math Olympiad class. His passion? Origami.
Most parents would probably tear the paper into shreds and educate their child, saying, “What’s the use of folding paper all day? Instead of wasting time on that, why not spend more time practicing math and improve your AMC scores?”
The school’s scientific advisor took him to visit the Qiu Chengtong class at Tsinghua University. The professor witnessed the child folding paper firsthand and marveled at his spatial imagination and computational abilities, which exceeded those of the average child.
Origami may be seen as a waste of time in the eyes of many parents, but that’s because they are unaware of its applications in aerospace, where folding techniques are crucial.
After being repeatedly discouraged by the achievements of Ivy League geniuses, this story brought me comfort. Looking at my six-year-old brother, apart from his love for playing with clay and slightly better coordination than his peers, he hasn’t shown much interest in math, science, or reading, making Stanford University highly unlikely.
One day, a teacher approached me with a serious tone, asking if I had noticed my brother’s lack of focus. I replied, “No, not really. He can spend two to three hours playing with LEGO or clay, completely absorbed in it.”
The teacher criticized, saying that kindergarteners also enjoy playing with clay. While everyone else was writing numbers, he wandered off to the art area alone…
Before I could respond, the teacher sighed and said, “He needs to pay attention in class, or else what will happen when he starts school?”
Honestly, I hadn’t given it much thought. There’s only so much we can predict about the future.
To be a responsible parent, my personal experience has taught me to control my own desires, hold back, and give children space and time to develop their own branches and tendrils…
Even if it’s just a hobby, what’s wrong with that?