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Mom Takes Notes, Spring 2022

By

ELISA JÄRNEFELT
  • Elisa Järnefelt

Some years ago, soon after I had started using Pinterest, I saw a sentence on someone's board: "Julia Child didn't start learning to cook until she was 37." This notion that someone could begin a successful career later in life mesmerized me. It contradicted everything I had thought before. I had believed that to be good — to truly succeed — you had to start early.

My belief was formed in practice. I was 5 when I started figure skating, and I was late to the sport. My friend, who had skated longer, was in the group of skilled children practicing at the other end of the skating rink. From the first lesson on, I had only one goal: to get in that more advanced group. I was a fast learner and made it there, but those who started later than me never had a chance. With competitive figure skating, you either started small or not at all.

This message and mentality were repeated many times in my young life. When I applied for funding for my PhD research, I was not able to apply for certain grants because they were for scholars who were under 25 years old. I was 26 at the time.

I learned about Julia Child almost a decade later, and you can imagine why it stood out for me: Why could Julia Child start learning a new skill at 37 and become good at it, but I had been almost too late already at 5 — and definitely by 25?

My daughter will be 5 this spring, and for the first time, we will sign her up for a camp or two. I can sense my old beliefs waking up and sitting on my shoulders: "We should think about what to focus on so that she will not be too late in the future. Or are we already too late?" But then I take a deep breath, gently lift the belief away and say: "We will do it differently this time."

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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