Monday, June 28, 2010

How do we ruin our children?

A few minutes ago I was sitting on the bed, making sure my 6-month-old didn't crawl off. OK, maybe crawl is the wrong word. He wiggles and squirms and otherwise moves and sort of makes progress in a direction either toward what interests him, or in the exact opposite direction. It's always unfortunate when your gyrations don't lead you toward your goal. Today was a good day, he was progressing toward his goal.

It amazed me how he would wiggle and squirm with all his might until he got closer to his goal. Children have an unrelenting persistence. So, the kid would move closer to the edge of the bed (that was his goal as far as I could tell), and I would pull him back to the middle. Then he would wiggle his way to the edge again. Over and over again, that kid would put his all into moving to the edge of the bed. Over and over again, I would pull him back to the center. Really, it was in his best interest. It's amazing to think of the perseverance that it takes to learn to walk, talk, socialize and otherwise grow up. Think of the set-backs that this kid will experience. Imagine how many times he will fall, fail to communicate, socialize or otherwise live a 'perfect' life.

Yesterday my wife was helping the 4-year-old ride his bike for the first time without training wheels. He crashed. He crashed numerous times. He crashed in the grass. He crashed on concrete. He even crashed into the van once. Each time he shed a few tears and jumped up with a huge grin to do it again. Some day he will ride a bike without training wheels and will go off jumps, dodge obstacles and do other stunts that his father thinks are a bad idea.

Give them 20 years and they will be typical adults. (At least we're hoping for typical in some ways... in other ways we're praying that they will be anything but typical). If they are anything like me they will grow up to have fears and anxiety. Fears of failure and fears of success. Fears to try things because of what others might think. Fears that prevent them from being genuine. I find it interesting that many of my greatest fears are the things that make children progress so quickly. The things that I fear most are the things that I feel that I need to protect my children from.

Maybe instead of protecting, I should follow their lead? ... I'm too afraid to try.


Emily A. W. said...

I just watched a movie called "Surfwise" about a very large family that lived in a camper and traveled around the United States from beach to beach surfing for a majority of their childhood. They had no formal education and lived with a pretty strict father who sought to "protect" them from the outside world.

I found the most interesting thing about the children was that when they grew up, they resented their dad for not giving them the opportunity to learn about how the "real world" worked.

They felt robbed of educational opportunity and resented him for forcing his lifestyle on them. Yet, all of the kids managed to later join society and be normal, productive people. One of them was disappointed he couldn't be a doctor because it would take 10 years of school, and he blamed his dad for that. One of them didn't like his dads iron hand, and he resented his dad for that to.

I guess what I am saying is, no matter what kind of parent you choose to be, your kids will eventually blame you for things they don't like about their life. Even if you gave them the perfect fearless example that you seem to desire to give them, they will still turn out to be good people and they will still have to struggle to grow in their own individual way.

Some blame will inevitably be placed on your shoulders, but overall I think parents have little to do with their children's success in their adult life. The only way a parent can really mess up is if they don't give a child the resources they need to flourish and build on their individual talents.

Having foresight to see that your child is gifted and leans towards a particular subject allows you to open doors for them they couldn't achieve otherwise.

Emily A. W. said...

You're a good father and a good man.