Monday, May 18, 2015

The One Thing I Most Want My Kids to Understand

This weekend, we had some visitors who were here in Juneau on a cruise for the day. None had kids with them, although one couple had children at home. We were in the middle of dinner when Paige interrupted to draw everyone's attention to the TV in our open-floor plan living room, which was playing a screen-saver slideshow of family photos, mostly of her and her brother. 

The adults were in the middle of a conversation, and Paige spent at least five minutes trying to divert everyone's attention to scenes of her and Isaac doing clever and funny things. 

Finally I said in a gentle tone of voice, "Honey . . . no one cares." This was met with uproarious laughter (from the adults), and the general observation that we were not helicopter parents. (We'd also been letting the kids run around outside for the better part of an hour before dinner). 

Paige simply shrugged and went back to playing with her dolls.

Had I not already had a cocktail, I probably would have found a slightly less direct way to deliver this information, and although what I said was blunt, it wasn't unkind, and it definitely wasn't untrue.

My kids are the center of my universe. But here's the thing. I don't want them to know it. Or at least, I don't want them to think they are the center of The Universe, capital T, capital U. Indeed, I want them to affirmatively believe that they're not.

In reality, Geoff and I spend all day every day thinking about our kids and planning for their comfort and well-being, from the minute they eat their made-to-order breakfast each morning to the minute they go to bed with one of us lying next to each of them. I know they feel loved. But I think there's a difference between being and feeling loved, and getting the message that your needs always come first and everyone should just drop everything and pay attention to you, the most interesting person in the room.

Every day seems to bring another parenting article about over-scheduled, over-coddled kids and how parenting used to be so much better back in the day. I think it's hard to be objective about the past, as surely every generation thinks the one that succeeds it grows up to be a big bunch of babies who had it too easy and is now suffering the consequences.

I actually don't worry that my kids will become spoiled from too many activities or toys. But I do worry that they will become spoiled by getting the message that whatever they are saying or doing at any given moment is the most important thing that's occurring. Because it's not. Not for any one individual. 

If you're going to survive and thrive in a world like ours, which is increasingly interconnected and interdependent, I think it's a good and very helpful thing to realize early on that you're not at its center.

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