“Simply let them play. Just chill. Odds are high that your children will never be truly exceptional in any field, guaranteed your children will be God awful in more endeavors than not. In most ways on most days for most kids much of their lives will be spent within spitting distance of mediocrity. Average Joe’s and Jane’s. We should refashion parenthood by tolerating play, pain and failure.
We should measure our children not by the mountains they conquer but by their efforts to climb. Oh, and let them pick which hills to scale.”
Ron Fornier, “Love That Boy: WHAT TWO PRESIDENTS, EIGHT ROAD TRIPS, AND MY SON TAUGHT BE ABOUT A PARENT’S EXPECTATIONS”
I’ve had another epiphany regarding parenting. Maybe most of you already know this, but I didn’t really KNOW it yet. My newest lesson is:
I need to chill the f%&* out when it comes to my expectations of my kids. Seriously.
I read (listen to) books every day in the car during my 2-3 hour daily commute. I alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes, I listen to books that really teach me something I want to share with as many people as possible, but I worry it is so preachy. Well, it may be preachy, but I don’t care. This post is a pseudo book review of Ron Fornier’s book “Love That Boy” and I can’t wait to express my feelings about it. In summary, what started out as a road trip for a reporter to connect with his son (who has Asperger’s) is truly a book about coming to terms with our expectations of our children and how to focus on what truly matters.
I agree with Fornier’s conclusions on how “we” (meaning ME) as parents let expectations rule our parenting and our child’s experiences.
Our kids have become the extension of our parental ego. We want them to excel where we fell short. Our expectations, our educational histories, all of it. We want our kids to be popular and athletic and brilliant and high-achieving super-empathetic wonderful people.
Average isn’t good enough. Good parents raise sociometric superstars. Right?
I’m guilty of all of it.
I want my kids to want to travel and try all kinds of food because of the experiences I’ve gained from it.
I want my kids to love history and philosophy because of what I loved about those things.
I want my kids to play organized sports because of the amazing experiences I had from my teammates and from competition itself.
I was an average study because I didn’t work hard enough. I want my kids to be better.
I was a scholarship athlete in college and took on loans for law school. I know how hard it is to pay student loan debt while trying to make a living. I want my kids to not have to struggle with that.
I look at my expectations for my 20 year-old stepdaughters. I know how hard it is to bounce back from mistakes and what an uphill climb it may be if they don’t make life decisions a certain way. But I cannot make them follow the path that I would have taken if I knew at 20 years old what I know now.
They are not me. And I am not them.
They are their own individual selves.
Now, this is what I am going to try to do differently
- I will parent for NOW, not for the future
- I will relax and not wallow in guilt
- I will embrace and celebrate the ordinary moments and small victories
And, I will always try to remember their age. I get so frustrated when my 9 year old acts so immature and repeats ridiculous things he’s heard on his Minecraft youTube videos – and all of his 9 year old friends think he’s annoying. I expect my 9 year old to act as I, a 40-year-old, think he should act.
“I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.”
– W. Livingston Larned (Father Forgets)
My older son is 9. My younger son is 6. They are 9 and 6. They will do annoying, frustrating, ridiculous things because they are 9 and 6 and are not being raised by the Royal Family or by June Cleaver. They may do annoying, frustrating ridiculous things when they are 15 and 12. I love my boys and my stepdaughters and I’ve asked so much of them to fulfill what I want for them, not what they want for them.
When our children are born, they are strangers. They do not have our minds and our souls and as much as we want them to be the best of us, they will be who they are….themselves.
And as parents, the best thing we can do to be “great parents” is to love those kids unconditionally no matter how superstar (or not) they are to the rest of the world.