By Brian McKay
I am a dad. Nothing more and nothing less. Just a dad. Recently, I was called Lucifer from a family member because I said the only thing that mattered in raising my daughter was that she learned science, philosophy and logic. With those things she could figure the rest out for herself.
Apparently science, philosophy and logic make me Lucifer because she might not learn closely held societal traditions otherwise. You know, the truth of one religious belief over another. I am not raising her to be “right”. Actually, I hope I don’t ever raise her to be anything. She is not the redemption for everything I have fucked up in life. I have to accept all the shit I have personally fucked up and let her have her own life.
Using our children as personal redemption has become far to common. We feel that indoctrination and pushing them to the extremes we were too childish to push ourselves to will help them compete in this competitive and materialistic world that we didn’t quite exceed in. Yeah, that vision never mattered in the first place.
I have seen parents pushing their kids in sports. They are pushing their kids in academics. Their children must reaffirm their religious affiliation. Or they might just be hovering over them to ensure that there are no threats or divisive issues in their lives. There isn’t any bit of the aforementioned sins that is less detrimental than the other.
So let’s get this straight. We push your kids in sports because we probably didn’t excel in them. Our kids are stressed out over grades because we most likely want to make up for our own. And our hovering is just pure crap because we feel a need to reaffirm our purpose. Let them get a cut, pick out a sport they like and play the trombone, no matter how you feel about any of it. For fucks sake, when did we stop letting our kids just be kids?
It seems there has been an identity crises brewing in the Reality TV States of America for an extended period of time. We have come to believe that audacity is more important than a contemplative existence. A massive amount of our country is ready to vote a complete misogynistic asshole into the White House and many of the rest of us want to mold a perfect child as a reflection of the fact that we would never vote for such an asshole in the first place. Either way the poor kid is fucked.
I don’t give a shit what my daughter grows up to believe. It matters not whether she chooses to be conservative, liberal, Buddhist, Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, Atheist or worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What matters is that she is my child, had a childhood filled with learning and wonderment and grew up to be her own person. She will know that dad loves her no matter what.
The beauty of this is that when left alone, our kids actually grow up healthier and better able to find their own way in the world. As a committed Taoist, I believe that letting go is the most important lesson we can ever learn. It comes into how we raise our children as well, in that we know when to gently guide them and when to let go and allow them to shape their amazing selves without pressure.
While I use the term “gently guiding’ please don’t mistake this as an excuse not to discipline for gross misbehavior. Yeah, we weren’t put here to be completely run over by them either.
There is a fine line that so many parents seem to overstep to one side or another. It took me years to figure it out. As a young parent, I bought Baby Einstein videos and wanted her to go to a private school. As a more mature parent, I realize that Baby Einstein was a load of crap and I am far happier with her having gone to a low income school and really having seen diversity around her.
Recently, someone asked me what I was most proud of in my child. Upon some thought, it wasn’t test scores, reading levels or measurable achievements, it was simply the ability to show empathy, compassion and exhibit a high Emotional Quotient. That’s it, and that is all it takes for our kids to be successful. No 45k a year private schools, no personal athletic trainers or math tutors and definitely no parents screaming at the sidelines of a soccer game. Just fostering empathy, compassion and an EQ.
Maybe the true point is that the American concepts of success have become incredibly skewed. We have to display success through a multitude of factors that really don’t matter. Well just in case you didn’t know, the success posters on the wall of the dentist office became cliché a long time ago. Billionaires don’t imbue moral superiority and homeschooling your kids is very likely to make them socially stupid.
As adults, we probably need to look inside ourselves first and stop overcompensating. Surely, I have screwed up a million times and life and probably have a few hundred thousand more in front of me. My child isn’t here to fix that.
If anything, I probably need to learn from her.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has a few degrees and shit. He decided to write this based on a conversation at the bar where he realized another parent was screwing up their kid. Please don’t screw up your kid. Vicious sociological cycles just aren’t cool. Brian recently heard that Batman Vs. Superman sucks, but he can't tell her that and burst her bubble. She has to figure it out for herself. He will be there wearing a Batman shirt too.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license