A friend of mine recently posted a great post about how parents are so competitive with their kids in preschool and how they just need to chill the heck out about it. I agree totally with this article, but would also like to add a few things.
I think there is something very off about feeling like I am doing something wrong with sharing my son’s ‘successes’ with people. It makes me paranoid that people are going to accuse me of being one of those pushy parents because I provide access to early education. I am worried that they see the word “flashcards” and some weird image pops into their minds of me standing over my child and beating knowledge in to him, or something along those lines. People are quick to make assumptions like these, and it’s not fair.
How much better would things be if they would gather facts first, instead of making assumptions? For example, what if they knew that the whole reason I started with alphabet/number flashcards so early was to utilize the pictures on the back of the cards to teach him sign language? As a deaf parent, it’s pretty important that their kids know how to communicate with them. It was only later that he grew interested in the letters/numbers, and I am not going to deny him a chance to learn because of the general anti-successfulness that tends to be going around these days. What if they knew that he showed an early interest in intellectual types of games and I want to encourage him to develop whatever strengths he has? Would they judge me differently then? For the stubbornly unconvinced, I ask only this: If you know a secret to getting an infant or 2 year old to sit through anything they don’t want to do, please, do tell, if only for curiosity’s stake.
My son has his strengths and weaknesses just like everyone. I don’t think it is appropriate to discuss my child’s “weaknesses” for lots of reasons that I explain below. As for strengths, I believe these are to be celebrated in everyone’s life regardless of age. I post them here on my blog and also post videos to share with friends and family on social networking sites. In addition to wanting to share new developments, I don’t think people want to see a video of him playing with his trucks or picking his nose and proudly declaring that he found a boogie. (Although now that I think about it, the boogie video would be pretty cute. I’ll put it on my to-do list). I just hope that no one is using these posts as a measuring stick of their own child, mine, or myself as a parent.
Competitiveness has no place in parenting. Parents believe that their kids are extensions of themselves, and therefore claim their kid’s successes as their own. Or something like that. The truth is that sometimes ‘uneducated’ parents who could care less about education can and do produce PhD candidates. Parents with MD/PhD can and do produce ‘uneducated’ people who about education. Preachers and other religious clergy can end up with rebellious or even atheistic children, and some of the most loving, devoted parents around still lose their kids to drugs and other addictions. Clearly, kids are their own unique people who have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Competitiveness has led us to being an anti-failure, yet anti-success society. Allow me to explain by giving examples. Recently, three very wealthy bankers won a 200 and something plus million dollar lottery jackpot. People were outraged that the three already wealthy people won. Somewhere else, a mother and her very beautiful daughter has to deal with all kinds of negativity from folks because the daughter was pretty much voted Miss Everything in the yearbook. I can go on and on with examples as to why we seem to be anti-success.
Yet by the same hypocritical token, we are an anti-failure society. Succumb to the disease of addiction and you’re written off as a loser. The same goes for being uneducated, not living up to materialistic standards, or even choosing to be a stay-at-home parent instead of pursing the big career. The fact is that people constantly judge and compare based on those around them: If a person is more successful than them, they are jealous, and jealousy is a form of anti-sucessfulness. Or if they are not as successful as them, then their sense of pride is temporarily inflated, and pride is a form of anti-failureness, so to speak. Jealousy and pride, in this case at least, are opposite extremes of each other. Somewhere in between these two is a healthier approach to life.
What if we could be genuinely happy for people who are successful? When someone buys a beautiful boat or has a brilliant kid- can we not just celebrate the person’s new boat and the kid’s talents with our whole hearts? If someone chooses a lifestyle that most people very much look down on, can we not still greet these people as the equally special human beings they are?
I can, and I hope to instill this in my son. I do this by focusing 100% on finding and celebrating each person’s strengths and ignoring the bad stuff for the time being. For example: I once sat and talked (in a safe place) to a homeless man who ended up being one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. In another case, while doing portraiture for a group of ex-prostitutes for a ministry, I sat among these ladies and talked to them as the special humans they are. I found amazing things with each one of them: One young lady was fluent in two languages and sent money home to help support her family whenever she could. Another older lady was one of the sweetest Grandmotherly figures around, and yet another was actually a very skilled artist.
On the opposite side of things, I am totally comfortable with very successful people. I been in amazing homes/vacation homes and conversed with extremely successful and highly educated folks. I do not feel jealousy toward those who are deemed successful. Instead, I feel honored to be invited to celebrate their successes with them.
Getting back on the topic of Nathan’s noggin, I truly hope that folks will stop being anti-success or anti-failure when it comes to each other’s kids. If someone is celebrating precociousness (intellectual, physical, emotional, otherwise) lets stop using this as a measuring stick and be happy for said child. Celebrate these kids as they grow regardless of how “early” or “late” they accomplish each milestone. Then maybe, just maybe, we can shape the next generation into a less competitive and more compassionate society.