Sitting here in my self-initiated, self led parental psychoanalytic session I frequently find myself pondering about a very fundamental yet tough question; “why do we have children?”
Relax! I am not looking for answers and come on let’s face it, is there one? To me it begins with one very selfish act of wanting to create that perfect reflection of you and your partner and of course wanting to keep that fabulous cycle of genetics going. Why not? My genes are great, some of them I secretly wish were a little dominant have turned out to be recessive but I know they exist. Maybe they’ll be dominant in my offspring, no harm in hoping. Reasons differ, generations differ, cultures differ but we all do it anyway for whatever reasons. Artistically speaking (I sense criticism, but I bravely pursue) it feels like I have been presented with a marvelous piece of raw material to work with. It comes pre-colored, pre-textured, has a few unique traits that I have seen in nothing else before and it is all ready and willing to be molded into whatever I want it to become. Really? That might be what I am getting at.
I am beginning to get a strong sense that parenting (call it mine) is beginning to feel like running a puppet show. We are all well aware that every child is unique but we still try to mold these little ones to who they should become and training starts very early in life. I am so bound by how they act/behave at home which translates to how they do it outside home. My feeling only validates itself when I hear praises on how well my son adapts and adjusts at school or other environments where he meets people. And do I stop there? No, I push harder. Sounds merciless I know but we all do it consciously or sub consciously. My pride and joy is at stake here; I am bearing my soul here so please bear with me. You do realize it all boils down to you as the parent, good or bad you are responsible for all of it.
I think everyone one of us has run into the soccer coach/dad/almost made it to the NFL guy who might be pushing his 4 year old just a little too much on the field, or a mother who might be working two jobs a day just to pay for the private cheerleading lessons that she believes her daughter so badly needs. Sound familiar?
It is called ambition, problem here is that it has a snowball effect to it, give or take a few personal unfulfilled aspirations and before you know your child is being shuttled between guitar lessons, ice skating, the swim team routine and of course let’s not forget he does excel at school as well (my son doesn’t know it yet but he is going to be juggling around as a full time doctor let’s make that a neurosurgeon, who is also a pro ice hockey player when he is not competing for a swimming gold medal for the US) . Why shoot for mediocrity when you have a perfectly willing candidate who is pretty open negotiations about his future with an occasional bribe. Does it begin to feel like that puppet show as yet? But wait who is the puppet here you or your child?
I think the root of my analysis began with watching a show called “Toddlers & Tiaras”. My initial reaction was disgust, come on which mother would put her 2 year old in three inch heels, make-up and pretend that the pageant was a deal breaker for her child’s future. Like I said the reaction was temporary, as a mother I came to the very harsh but true realization that I do it too; I live vicariously through my children as well. Now now, it can’t be that bad right? It starts off pretty innocent; you want to dress your infant up like the Gap commercial kid, you try pushing academics early on in life thinking your son or daughter might be that genius mind and all he or she needs is that extra nudge. At our house we make subtle references to Doogie Houser and secretly harbor the hope that one of them might pick up on it. Lots of us do it (please back me up on this one). The intensity differs of course, some of us live and breathe vicariously through our children and it begins to take a life of its own. I secretly want my four-year son to swim like Michael Phelps, I did not learn to swim as a child so I over exaggerate my lack of the skill to make my son a gold medalist at it, aim high why not? My daughter has temporarily been spared because she is too young right now and we tend to focus harder and better when there is one target on hand.
Let’s not forget the peer/parental pressure on how many after school classes a child can handle in any given week day. Whatever happened to just finishing school, coming back with a pile of homework that gets done on time to spare those few extra hours to actually run and play outside? Or just picking out an activity that both kids and parents enjoy once a week and do it together. I am not against keeping a child busy after school, but why decide what he might like when he is perfectly capable of telling you what he might like to do. As a child I badly wanted to learn to play the guitar but my parents thought Indian classical music was the way to go, so guess what even though I might have actually enjoyed learning it I detested going to lessons every week because I had no choice in the matter. Ok excuse the cynicism. But I am sure you are witnessing what I might be leaning towards. I pin a lot of my hopes and dreams that might have gone unfulfilled for me on my children but I am beginning to draw a line on what they might have the potential for and more importantly what they might be interested in doing. There is a vast difference between brainwashing and presenting opportunities so that children can explore their options. Choices might be a key word here, preparing us for possible change of minds and preventing those disappointments that they are entwined with. All of us want success for our kids and we might just support them even if they do not choose the career path we have in mind for them. I have several arguments about the issue with my husband I strongly believe in children finding their own niche’. He believes in the “grooming early theory”. Which basically means if kids are told what is expected of them every so often over a period of time they get so tuned to it and the choices I was mentioning about earlier seize to exist.
I know parenting comes with the responsibility of leading and directing. That might be the trick to it as well, trust yourself as parents to give your kids the responsibility to make those important choices in life. My key to parenting lies in my role to channelize and be that chauffer who they so badly need to take them places. But let them pick the places and the adventures they are willing to take. I am always there to steer the wheel.