Believing that the children are the future is absolutely useless unless you acknowledge that they are also the Here and Now.
So many times, we as adults impose this kind of ‘you must be this old to count’ standards on our children, or at any rate the children we run across in whatever sphere.
As a teacher, there are roughly 1600 children in my sphere. That’s a lot of children and my sphere is frequently painfully overpopulated. But being that up close and personal with so many kids from so many contexts gives me such a great opportunity to watch multiple stories unfold and the one thing that it makes me want to do is scream to all the parents of the world: YOUR CHILD IS THE NOW, DAMMIT.
Your child is THE RIGHT NOW.
We need to stop raising our young as if they are giants in slumber who will matter ONE DAY
Who will rise up ONE DAY
Whose worth will chip in ONE DAY
Who will be held accountable for their actions and choices ONE DAY
Because from the very minute that these children drew breath, it became our responsibility to remind them daily of their worth, their value and their potential. Not for some far off day, but for TODAY. I mean, “far off day”??? Kids don’t even do far off MINUTES. Tell a 2 year old to “give mommy one second,” and you just told him “hold on until FOREVER.” Tell a 5 year old the party is ‘tomorrow’ and you’ve just told him it’s next never-ever-ever. Tell a teenager he can get the car when you get home, and you’ve just told him, “Cancel your plans, take off your party clothes, you’ll never get the car and p.s. you’ll probably die alone.”
What is this ‘future’ of which we speak?
They don’t know. And sometimes I wonder if we really think WE do.
When you teach a child, deliberately or as a by product of parenting choices, that he or she has to wait for some indefinite ‘later’ to do or to understand or to BECOME, then we can build a if not ‘kill’ then “cripple” switch into their functioning that can be turned on by so many things, and turned off by very few.
Now I’m not talking about ignoring the future, and living short sightedly. There are definitely things we have to do as parents with a long term view that kids simply won’t “get” until they are in fact older. But not everything needs to be on that slow burner. And I’m not talking about permitting your child to do anything that he or she desires and sending them smoking, drugging, and orgying their way into the sunset either.
I’m talking about allowing them room to fly with the requisite flip side of room to fail.
I understand the parental urge to surge up between child and disaster, and of course we must do our best to protect them. Just not too much. There are so many studies now that talk about the over-sanitizing of our children’s environments leading to them having a compromised immunity. And I can’t help but think that that can apply to so many areas of our children’s lives.
I’m not saying feed them poop on a platter. What I am saying is that maybe dirt isn’t that bad, so maybe sometimes we let them grab a cookie without a bio-hazard grade hose down.
Maybe they fall and we let them clamber back up without calling in the SWAT team to figure out which playground brat pushed little Lisa down.
Maybe they forget to do an assignment and we just pick them up after detention instead of pulling an all-nighter so that we can hand a well-rested Junior a scale model of the Eiffel Tower made entirely out of hairpins and despair.
Maybe we let them fight with their best friend, and maintain stormy silence until they learn to apologize and/or forgive.
Maybe we let them wear a different shoe on each foot, or fail that test, or get a D, or sit out that recital or match, or be late for school, or ruin something, anything… (except their lives. I was thinking more along the lines of plans and pictures and outfits and fledgling relationships)
When we place too much emphasis on the perfection of every microsecond, so much emphasis that we the mighty parents must do for them what they would only ruin if they tried to do themselves, like it or not, we’re telling them that we don’t trust them to handle it and they shouldn’t trust themselves either; we’re telling them that ruining a thing is pretty much the end.
I see it everyday in brilliant students who are terrified to voice an answer in case it’s wrong. As if wrong is the end. As if wrong says something definitive and permanent about them. I have students who ‘report’ teachers to their parents for things like punishing them for no homework, and parents who in turn lambaste teachers for not understanding the magic specialness of their child and the dog who may or may not have truly eaten the homework.
May I suggest that by stripping your child of the chance to absorb natural consequence, you are delaying their…’self-ness’; that ability to recognize themselves as an actual person whose choices have weight and will make waves in their lives. The day of reckoning must come, and a child who has no idea that he matters, and his choice matters and the consequence matters becomes an adult who functions in the same oblivious, damaging way.
There is no magical border that douses us in enlightenment once crossed. We must begin to teach our babies that they are people now, and that their choices matter. And that each choice has a consequence, and while we aim for positive reactions from our actions, even bad ones can be overcome and do not need to define us forever.
We need to teach them that their value is intrinsic and inviolable and immediate, and that it walks hand in hand with responsibility AND recovery. We try to choose wisely, but we can bounceback from even catastrophic failure. Once we remove the distance from the importance, and the death weight from the failure, we can begin to raise our children as real-life, valid people who can begin realizing their purpose from so much earlier in the game.
And isn’t that what we want for our small humans? That they become even more than their wildest crayon dreams?
Parenting is the hardest thing I know. These little lives hang in the balance of our own choices. Our issues cloud our visions and our pasts can blur our ideas of their futures.
At the end of the day, we’re just doing our very best for our tiny loves. I choose to believe that about every parent I meet, even the ones who seem sitcom-worthy.
SO even while we, the league of beleaguered and bewildered who cannot believe Someone trusted us with these precious children, do our best to contribute to that great, grand Future, remember one thing:
The future is screwed if we keep ruining all the ‘todays’, so let’s go TeamParents.
Let’s get some kool-aid, crayons and cookies going. For courage.
We’re going to need it.