I was a brownie for a day. My mom made me stop. She didn’t want me to conform. –Sandra Bullock
Do you have a plan for your child? This applies especially to parents of younger kiddos. Are you already mentally picturing the milestones? Maybe your son can kick a soccer ball at two so you’re convinced he’s headed for a long career of professional futbal…maybe little Madison will go to Stanford because she can read Goodnight Moon at 18 months (um, not to burst your bubble but if you’ve read it to her every night she probably just memorized it).
The thing is, you have no idea where your child is headed at age 2, 4, 10 or even 18 – with few exceptions. As parents today we think signing them up for every imaginable activity is somehow doing them a favor. We throw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. At first it’s healthy; they’re exploring options and figuring out what they enjoy and don’t enjoy, but then we ruin it because we expect them to excel in something (the sooner the better!), and the second they show even a sliver of ability we’re all over it, paying for expensive private coaching, tutoring…buying gear and bragging on our facebook pages.
But take a closer look. I challenge you – do your kids love what they’re doing? Is their momentum and drive coming from them…or you?
Not all kids are A students and we kind of need to own that as parents. We are continuously adhering to a formula of child-rearing that may not fit our kids or play to their strengths. Your child may only be capable of B’s or C’s. They may not have any athletic ability. They may not even be college material. Why are you fighting it? Are you afraid they won’t match up to your neighbor’s kid? Embrace their individualism. You have no idea what passions lie deep under the facade you’ve created.
I know it’s tough when you have hopes for your kids and they don’t play out. I’ve been there many times and am certainly guilty of this behavior. You think they have to lock in early to whatever it is they’re programmed to do well, so you can exploit it and prepare them for excellence later in life. But what if that thing they/you have locked into differs from their passion or draws them away from who they really are? Won’t this damage their potential far more than skipping a season of club soccer because your power forward wants to do the school play instead? That knot in your stomach when they miss a goal or bomb a test comes from taking a hit to your expectations, not their failure. Watch your child – do they experience joy and happiness when engaged in an activity?
In my community the kids are pushed and prodded into excellence. It’s a rarity for them to have a weekend free of commitments. They rush from Point A to Point B, from activity to activity. There is hardly time to do homework, let alone daydream or imagine. We hear this message of ‘simplify’ all the time, but what does that really mean in the context of child-rearing and how do we put it into practice?
Parents, it’s on US. It’s OUR fault. We’re blinded by ambition and it’s not even for ourselves. Your child is an individual – and remember they’re a child for such a brief time, and then they’re adults for many years who need to have instincts and discernment. We need to teach our kids to trust their guts and help them lead an authentic life. Only in truth can we find our intended paths and only truth can lift the shroud of conformity. This might be the hardest lesson for us to learn as parents, especially if we’re surrounded by overachievers. Stay true to your child – I’m not certain but I think we (and they) will be far better off for it.