13 February 2010

Carry on

Today, I had to spend some time with a woman I've known for many years. I don't dislike her; she is a genuine and caring individual, but there is one way that she consistently irritates me.

Our first pregnancies overlapped, and her son was born a few months before mine. And at that moment, in her mind, it was Game On.

So for 16 years, it's been a child-rearing competition. At least in her mind. I don't play.

My notion of raising kids is pretty simple. You get what is handed to you when the kid is born. I don't believe in a tabula rasa. If you've had children, you know they are born with personalities and foibles; there is no blank slate. You try to emphasize the good in each one and mitigate the bad, and you need to realize that you have a limited time in which to work your magic and influence their behavior.

I've never been one for shoving things down my kids' throats. I've given them many opportunities, and activities always have been available to them. But they weren't interested in karate. Or soccer. Or music lessons. Or dance lessons. Now learning how to create video games? That one was Da Bomb. Traveling? Any day of the week. Hiking? Sure thing. Having the necessary materials to recreate the Trojan War on a child scale? Right on target.

Because those are my kids.

My friend is constantly lecturing me on what I should be doing because I am a concerned and loving mother, using her own experience and the experience of her friends as example. And yet, my kids are completely successful, though I constantly ignore her.

I should emphasize that she is not alone in lecturing me. I get it from all quarters, particularly amongst the parents of the son's friends. And though I am outside the box, although we choose our own path, although both my children are academically successful and kind, well-behaved human beings, I still get lectured.

My own life has followed a path so far outside the box that this may be the reason that I am unafraid of straying from the road more heavily traveled. And that is what I want for my own strong-willed children. I offer guidance and suggestion; they are aware that they have my support. They know that I have one desire for them and one requirement. The desire is that they choose to do something honorable with their lives that will make them happy. The requirement is that they be capable of supporting themselves. I will help them within reason, but the heavy lifting is theirs.

Not long ago, another parent I know informed me that my approach is "unrealistic." For whom, I wonder. And I wonder how much more unrealistic than the approach of parents who have burned their children out by the age of 18, forcing them into every conceivable sport and activity as well as tutoring, in the hopes of making their kids successful.

My ego is not tied to my kids' success. It is not about how my kids stack up compared with other people's kids. And today, as my friend lectured me about why the son must take SAT subject tests this year, I realized that she is chasing something unrealistic. Her happiness rests on making this kid something. I'm not even sure that she knows what it is.

Most importantly, as she went on and on about the error of my ways, I recognized that I was wholly at peace with the way we were doing things. And I have every confidence that both my children will have the tools they need to make their own ways in the world and to live their lives with joy and compassion. I am satisfied that they will create their own success.

Go listen to some good music: "Carry On" from the album Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It's funny how people are always tell me how wrong my parenting is while extolling the virtues of my children.

No comments: