Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Well Then, Allow Me To Retort!

I am always grateful that anyone takes the time to read what I have written, and when they also take the time to comment, well, that's just an added bonus. Of course I would love it if everyone simply agreed with everything I say, but if everyone agreed with me the world would be a very weird place - and I would have nothing to write about. So as much as I love the feedback that supports my views, I also love the feedback that challenges me to think and write more clearly, or to reconsider the validity of thoughts.
Once in a while I write a post that stirs someone to the point where they want to send me a private email about it. I guess that yesterday's post was one of those times. I didn't see anything controversial of even challenging about the post, but one reader latched on to something that I needed to sit down and consider for a while. To paraphrase, the feedback was something like this:

"You write about how your kids love life, and how you give them so much. I would love my life too if I got to do whatever I wanted all day long, with a parent around to wait on me hand and foot. Yep, if I got to choose what to do, when to do it, and who to do it with, with no consequences whatsoever, I'd probably meet your perfect definition of childhood."

Now, once I let my blood cool a little bit, I had to think about how to approach this note. In all candor, there were several possible approaches I could have taken. First of all, my kids don't "get" to do what they want, they "choose" to do what they want and we do our best to support those choices within the confines of attempting to meet multiple needs of multiple people. Second, the opposite of "get to do" is "be prohibited from doing", and I work hard to ensure that I never say no arbitrarily or reflexively. Of course, I do not wait on my kids hand and foot; I do things for them because I want to or because it is helpful to them, but I don't do everything - and when I ask them for something, most of the time they will do it because they have seen small acts of kindness modeled for them. And to suggest that my kids act without consequence is ludicrous; everything they do has a consequence of some type. Our consequences, however, are not punishments - they are simply the natural, logical extensions of what is, with the parent alongside them to coach and support them through.

I could easily have approached my response in one of these ways, and if I looked hard enough I'm sure that I have written about each one of them in depth before. But these issues were not what struck me; what struck me most was this:

"I would love my life too if I got to do whatever I wanted . . . "

Yes, that is precisely my point. You would love your life if you could do what you wanted, because most of us would never choose to so something that did not bring us joy or relief. And yet, we all do just that to some extent. Now, I could write forever about how and why parents should pursue what they want; I think I already have written about that several times, too. But I'm more concerned with the kids in this case.

I can only assume that, as parents, we want our kids to have a better and easier life than we did. You can define "better" and "easier" in a variety of different ways, but I think that a "better" life means a happier life, a life that you enjoy, a life that is fun, a life that gets up every morning and pulls you into it even when you think you'd rather not. If I don't have one of those lives myself I can make changes to get there, but I may have a ton of reasons why I shy away from doing that much work. I may have to sacrifice my possessions, my security, or the way I am perceived in order to pursue a life that I would love. But kids . . . . kids don't have that baggage yet. They can choose joy and fun and happiness without feeling like they have to sacrifice anything to get it, because they're often not as intellectually invested in the trappings of life - their sole interest is in living and enjoying it.

When my kids grow older, I hope they never say "I would love my life too if I could do what I wanted." Instead, I hope that they do love their lives, that they are pursuing their passions, and that they feel unencumbered by convention and compassion for people who are unable or unwilling to make choices to pursue joy.

6 comments:

  1. as always, you were kinder than was required, reasonable and well-reasoned, and a beacon of parental possibilities. i hope the feedback person can hear what you're saying, can really grok that their complaints are based only on their own misunderstanding of how you relate to your children. "I would love my life too if" is a sad IF.

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  2. Well done! Well said!

    I get really tired of the typical pitty party of those who don't see that EVERYTHING in life is a choice!

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  3. The feedback you quoted/paraphrased, when I've seen it before other places, implies or often then states the following: children who are nurtured are "spoiled" and given "no consequences", childhood is this idyllic time but then the Real World is going to make you suffer. Just You Wait. It is a sad and limited and often harmful series of worldviews.

    "They can choose joy and fun and happiness without feeling like they have to sacrifice anything to get it, because they're often not as intellectually invested in the trappings of life - their sole interest is in living and enjoying it."

    Boy, isn't this true, and bears reflecting on. My children still exhibit attitudes of joy, consideration, empathy, humor, and love - not scarcity and resentment. I do believe it's possible to retain these trappings - and it's far harder to regrow them if they've been damaged from more mainstream adultist parenting attitudes.

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  4. Once upon a time I packed up all my belonging and my dog and moved w/ my previous husband from New York State to Montana. I lost count of the people we talked to before moving who said, "I would love to move to Montana" or "I wish I could move to Montana." Hello?!?! We packed up and moved and they could have made that choice, too. It feels like too many (most) people have forgotten that they have a choice in how they live their life every moment of every day. Sometimes changing choices takes time but we can keep making choices that move us in the direction of our bliss :)

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  5. As always, beautifully thought out and well written, reading your blog is always a joy!

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  6. I'm sorry there are people out there who do not love their life, and believe it is impossible or irresponsible to do so. Loving life, what a gift to give our children.

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