Top of the morning ladies of the intraweb. How are you all? I’ve missed you. Chie said that you needed a break from me, but i don’t believe her lies. I know you have been waiting to hear all the glorious things I have to say.
That being said, Chie and I recently had a conversation about the future success/failure of our children. It came up in the context of what we want to see in the future for Kiko. By that, I mean, what we hope she becomes or does with her life. That is fairly standard conversation fare for parents, certainly not worth reporting to you all. But, what set this conversation apart was the conclusion drawn from the conversation that in one way, every kid is screwed. Every parent simultaneously wants there child to succeed and fail in life. Many of you after reading this will protest. “Andy, you miserable s.o.b, why would you think I want my child to fail? I do not nor could ever want such a thing! You suck!”
Well, let me hash out my irrefutable thinking on the matter. We will start with desiring a child’s success. Pretty easy right. “All I want is for my child to succeed in life however that may be.” Yeah, I kind of believe you. But, I have a personal anthropological and theological belief that won’t let me believe that you and I as parents are quite so pure. Of course on one level the average loving parent does in fact want there child to succeed. However, there is a layer deeper that is not quite so pure and hopeful.
Let me lay out a scenario; we have child A, we will call him Andy, or maybe it’s a her so instead let’s call her Andi, with an i. Andi is a major science geek. She at age 2 is splitting atoms in the living room. The world can see she is going to MIT. What does that look like as she is growing up? First, in secret, because our weird nerd daughter has asked, we go to the lame part of the toy store and buy her that geode rock set thing which most kids throw out after receiving on Christmas. She likes it, it keeps her occupied so we as parents are happy. But, over time, we notice that she is really into this and so we must venture out to do science activities like going to museums and whatnot. We let it slip to the other mommies and they say something like “Oh wow, thats great your taking Andi to the Aerospace museum. Does she like things like that? I wish we could get little Paul to like those kinds of things. What’s your secret?” Well now, at first we brush this off, it’s just an off handed comment, nothing to dwell on. But, over time we notice that the innocent comment has not left our minds. We remember how good it felt to be complimented and begin to think, that yes, in fact I am doing a good job raising a daughter that is in to science stuff, whatever it is.
Over time, Andi gets more involved with nerdy science stuff at school and science enters clubs. These clubs enter competitions and of course, she wins. We as parents get front row to watch the ribbon placing ceremony and then shoot like a rocket up to the front so that we are able to have OUR picture taken with the winner. Slowly, every achievement that Andi has with this science stuff involves us the parents being there and sharing our place in glory because, in fact, Andi has gotten there because of US, she is where she is because of our influence, of course she is so smart but I really had a lot to do with this. Conclusion, success for your kid is success for you. Deny as you might, I know you and I know me, your hope for child’s success, is in some ways a hope for your success through her. But, that’s not as bad as what’s coming next….my knowledge of your secret wish for your child to fail….at least a little bit.
I imagine you must be thinking I am the worst father in the world if I, in writing a diary feel such a way so as to express it to my wife in conversation and then to you. Here me out. On a basic level we as parents do not want our kids to fail. But, as with success, there is a less appealing deeper level that wars within you. When your kid does something that you don’t want them to do, there is a fear of the repercussions for those actions. You as a older and (at least in your own mind) wiser parent want the child to listen to you so as to avoid whatever stupidity would befall them from this ill advised action. For example, if you give advice to the average person on the street, I think you would be willing to admit to yourself that you want that advice heeded. On top of that you want that advice to be good, correct advice. So, if that advice is good advice (at least in your mind) you want a negative reaction to happen if the person does it follow or does the opposite of what you have advised. Now, why would that base, unpleasant feeling not transfer over to your relationship as a parent? Let me set the scene. You say to little Paul”Don’t climb on that, its slippery”. Paul ignores your wisdom and climbs. He then falls on his stupid head. He’s a little hurt, not terribly, but enough so that he is not laughing it off. You say to him….”You should have listened to me”. Which has an element implicit to it that says, “I am right, knowledgable, so you should make a habit of listening to me.” Take this scenario 20 years down the line. Your implicit comments have become a regular practice and your entire thought process has an element which involves the “I am right you should listen to my wisdom” element to it. Paul after 20 years comes home a full on adult, he has lived a life of making choices that you don’t agree with. You must admit to yourself that a very real part of you wants to hear Paul say “Yes mom/dad you were right I should have a listened to you about things.” You wanna element of failure in your child’s life, an element which is visible enough so that you can take some self satisfaction in knowing that you were right all along and these other pele should really heed what you have to say. Don’t worry, you can admit it, sadly we al think this way. It’s part of our screwed up nature.
This conversation I had with Chie ended with her asking, “what do we do about it”? The first step, at least for myself is constantly admitting it to myself and to my kids continually. “Andi/Paul whoever, Daddy/mommy sucks. I am sorry. But one day you as a parent will suck too. So much of the time I care so much more about me then you. Really it’s most of the time. Please forgive me. Part of me will always try to bring you down or to use you for my own benefit.”
It’s not a fun conversation, but our wee bundles of joys are understanding and by the grace of God will forgive us. Together, we can try to avoid turning our kids futures into little pieces puppetry from whom we extract out our own desire for satisfaction and accomplishment.