I read a great post yesterday that really made me think. The post was called, “I Want My Kids to Fail” and was about how we handicap our children by making their lives too easy and not allowing them to appreciate success more deeply. This is especially true when success comes easily, without the challenge of obstacles.
After reading the post, I thought a lot about it. I realized the gravity of what the author was saying and I have to agree. Though I think its probably one of the hardest things for a parent to want for their child-failure-I believe that understanding what failure means is the only way that a person can truly comprehend the value of success.
I thought about this in other areas of life as well. I am a mother who wants my children to be happy in life. But not only happy – I want them to be well-rounded, empathetic, loving, and appreciative so that their happiness is not so…
I may not win any “Mother of the Year” awards by saying this, but I want my children to go through life taking some stumbles. I want them to find their true character when they are looking at the world from the ground upon which they fell, realizing that sometimes it takes a lot of work to stand back up.
It will be hard for me to watch. Devastating, really. But I can’t imagine what their lives will be if they don’t go through some of this.
I want my kids to have their heart broken. Even writing that makes me cringe a bit as the protective maternal instincts in me rise to the bait. “Nobody is going to hurt my child!” that part of me that will always be the mama bear to her baby cubs says in anguish. But the reality is, I know they are going to be hurt at some point. Badly. Terribly. Devastatingly so.
My children are sensitive. I know already that they will be the ones to love with reckless abandon. But I also know that they may be careless with love – giving it to those who don’t deserve it or withholding it from those who crave it.
I know this because I see so much of myself in them. And while I did not have the easiest time in gaining male affection in my teenage years, by the time I got to college things had changed. I would never say I was a hot commodity, but I was cute and outgoing and met some men who cared for me more than I cared for them.
And I was ruthless. I was callous. I was so darn selfish that I have no clue why a few of those men still even communicate with me today, to wish me a quick “Happy Birthday!” on Facebook. I’m surprised they don’t write things on my wall like, “Die, Bitch. Die.” But they were nice guys, after all. So that just wouldn’t happen.
They probably just say it to themselves, instead.
It’s easy to be careless and ruthless when you don’t know that suffocating feeling of loving someone so much that you would place their own needs and desires before your own, time and time again. Its easy to be callous when you don’t remember the feeling of anxiety as you waited for your call to be returned, feeling that rush of disappointment when you pick up the phone to discover it is just your parents (sorry, Ma and Papa) calling you to ask you if you remembered that it’s Thursday and your’re not supposed to eat meat (lots of Indian traditions to remember).
But when you don’t know those feelings, well – its easy to not acknowledge that someone else might be going through them.
And then it happened. Someone broke my heart.
Looking back, I don’t remember how much of it was my heart or my ego. But it happened. By a good looking Tom Cruise look-alike at the University of Virginia who was a swimmer to boot.
I am thinking that one may have been my ego.
But then it happened again. And again. And each time it happened, while I felt fragile and hurt and full of questions that never got answered, I also felt a little bit stronger and wiser.
And a heck of a lot more empathetic to know what it means to be on the receiving end of a one-sided love.
If Nico turns out to be a fraternity jock, who sleeps his way through whatever sorority is the hot one at his school (come on, everybody knows that there is always the one sorority where getting in was based completely on your genetic aptitude), I will be the one who is heartbroken. If Shaila callously dismisses men from her life or tugs at their heartstrings by leading them on, I will be so disappointed.
And while I don’t want them to be doormats in a relationship, I just don’t want them to let anyone else be theirs.
I want my kids to stumble. Yes, I really am a mother. No I am not just disguised as one and the sea of Cheerios that litter the back seat of my car (Mother? Yes. Tidy? No) can prove that.
The reason I want them to fall and to stumble and learn what it means to be “down on your luck” – not because they didn’t get that new smart phone their friend has (probably a smart robot of some sort by the time they are teenagers) but because they really feel like they have hit rock bottom.
Gosh it sounds so heartless, doesn’t it? And yet, if you knew me, you would know that I am the first to run at the sound of a cry or a tremulous voice from my child if they hit the pavement outside.
I think about the people I know in my life who reflect the most wisdom and inner beauty and strength. They have all been through something hard. Something painful. Something brutally imperfect. And in having gone through something so hard, they have raised themselves up to a place where their wounds may have healed but the scars? Well the scars are what they still look at and make them better people.
And the scars are what really beautiful. Or as my friend Glennon likes to say, “BRUTIFUL.”
When I look around me at the people who care to change the world? They are people who have the capacity to experience empathy, because they have been or seen something low. Empathy is something that you don’t have to be “trained” to feel – but I can’t help but think that experiencing something hard makes you that much more likely to open your arms and offer your shoulder to cry on, your hand to hold, or your heart to remain open to your fellow neighbors.
So, yeah. I want my kids to take a few falls. Me saying it doesn’t change that fact that it’s going to happen anyway. I just want to be able to help them process it when it happens – and if they don’t turn to me, I hope they are grounded enough to know that they can stand back up again.
Because they can. And they will.
The difference will be if they reach out their hand to help the next person they see who is having trouble getting off the ground in the journey called life.
Do they walk by OR do they reach down and grasp that hand and ensure that troubled soul that the ground is not that rocky, that their legs are stronger than they think, that the way up is not that far and – most importantly – that staying down is not an option?
There are too many people who can walk on in this world. Without a thought, without a second glance.
I pray that I raise my children to think beyond the second glance.
Most importantly, I want my kids to succeed. So I say these things about what I want/ don’t want for my children – knowing that when it comes down to it – there will come a point where I will have very little choice or very little control over what they really face and ultimately, how they decide to process it.
We as parent can lay the foundation, but there will come a time where their individuality will take over and our phone calls, our teachings, our years of mediocre parenting (because who are John and I really kidding here?) will be called to the test.
And while I want them to fumble a few times and maybe take some blows, I hope they make it towards success and their own ecstacy.