Welcome to the age of parenting in a world that is supercharged with agendas, celebrates success regardless of merit and fast tracks early front runners, deserving or not.
My friends and I lament the state we find ourselves in. We are caught in a riptide of super-competitive parenting, a race to create mini-moguls and superstars and have them committed to D1 colleges before they are fully-fledged teenagers. It’s exhausting, for everyone !
We – successful, basically happy, stable (enough) people in our own right – acknowledge our role in somehow creating the monster, although we are not sure how it got so out of control and resent reading daily blogs on how we are raising a generation of fragile, egotistical, dependent children who are never going to leave the nest, as true as it may be.
It is time to take a stand, or at least a step back and review the situation.
The number one answer to the question, what do we want out of life is: I want to be happy.
The number one answer to the question posed to parents, what is the most important thing to you is: Our children.
The logical conclusion is not: the number one goal of parents is to make our children happy – but this is what has happened.
They are ours and our success as parents is measured so intricately in their conduct and abilities and genius ……… so we panic and hover and placate and engineer friendships, conference with teachers and pave the way so precisely that, mutinous rebellion aside (heaven forbid – better medicate for the possibility!) the kids navigate their school years (carefully avoiding the bullies lurking in the shadows because a teacher’s aide has to vigilantly make sure ‘that’ child has absolutely no contact with that other child) untouched by hardship, disappointment or betrayal and with a gilded report card in the end engineered towards an Ivy League education.
Because, isn’t that what will make our children happy?
We are Generation X parents. We are go-getters, doers, an ambitious group that has literally changed the world. When our children arrived we turned our energy, ambitions and priorities towards them with the intent of creating a new generation of significantly accomplished children. This is how we are hard-wired. This is who we are, or at least who we feel compelled to be. We live vain, self-absorbed lives, all the while complaining about how busy we are as we battle to keep head above water in the rising riptide of responsibility for making everything perfect for our children.
Parents – this is not the way you were raised! Honestly, how many times did your parents go out on a limb, talk to teachers, write your essays, question your grades, remove you from a team because you were not the starting quarter-back, or otherwise rob you of opportunities to deal with disappointments, figure out a difficult personality, make up your own mind that science may not be your forte but man I love figuring out what makes a piston fire an engine ………..?
I understand that we live in a different world, but the future remains as it always has – unknown. We don’t know if our endeavors (our agendas, conferencing, pushing, publicizing …) of today are indeed what is going to ensure the success of our children tomorrow. We do know, however, that we, as a generation of parents, are (for the most part) successful and relatively happy in our own right – quite possibly due to the endeavors of our own parents which, I hazard to guess, were more along the lines of leaving us to figure out the ebbs and flows in the tides of childhood largely on our own, under a watchful but compassionately detached eye.
I also know that the way to escape a riptide is to swim away from it. There is an ocean of deep blue water out there where our children need to learn to tread water without mom frantically puffing into the floaties whenever an ego is deflated.
We put a lot of energy into our children’s lives. That’s who we are. We are an aggressive, doer-mentality driven generation. Own it. Start a new hobby, a business, a charity, a blog …… If you want to give your child a leg-up consider what has worked for you and countless other successful people through the ages. Teach them manners. Teach them to do their own work, fight their own battles. Teach them there is tremendous value in dealing with difficult people and problems. A toughness bred by independence of thought and action is truly a source of happiness.
As crazy and unpredictable as this world is, isn’t ‘happy’ the ultimate goal anyway?