Dru’s first day of Kindergarten was today. He’s been excited for a while, and woke up this morning bright and cheerful and excited about the day. He was very helpful and ready to go 10 minutes early. We were so excited for him, and (of course) a little sad, but mostly excited. And very happy that he has an internal drive and love of learning which many people (young and old) have lost somewhere along the way.
Of course it was emotional…my little boy is hitting a big milestone, but I promised myself not to be the mom holding him back, passing on any anxiety or worry. I wouldn’t cry and upset him. And I didn’t. He cried a bit, mostly nerves I think, since he couldn’t stop talking about his day once we picked him up. Yet it made me think, as parents, what are we imparting to our children. We want to hold on to them as long as possible, but those parents who hover and interfere constantly make me angry and sad all at once. I’m angry that as a society we encourage a culture of fear that makes parents feel a visceral desire to constantly be alert for any and all dangers. When Dru is at a playground, I’m the mom sitting on a bench, chatting or reading while he plays. Other parents are walking their (same age) kids over bridges and encouraging them to come down slides, because they have no innate sense that they can do it themselves. If Mom or Dad is always there ready to catch them, why should they learn to take the leap? Now, that’s not to say that I think my 4.5 year old should be allowed to jump into the pool unattended (let’s be reasonable here folks), but we need to let our kids build their self-esteem. And the only way to do that is themselves…we can’t do it for them by always making sure they succeed. Kids are smart, they can feel the difference between when they accomplish something – opening the cereal box…even if it gets all over the kitchen – and when someone else does it for them, and then tells them they’ve done a good job. Self-esteem is aptly labeled…it needs to come from inside yourself. I’m sad for these kids (and parents) because where are they going to be in 5, 10, 20 years? What happens when that child is an adult, and they go in for a job interview and don’t get the job? Mom or Dad can’t come to the rescue then…and we’re seeing the effects of this already.
I saw it in the schools, and I see it in the kids that are around everywhere…”I’m awesome/smart/pretty/etc. so I DESERVE this.” NO.
When I worked as a trainer in a restaurant in New Orleans, one of our managers always used to tell us to hold a 10 over every trainee’s head. We used to laugh, and make fun of it (still sometimes it’ll come up as a joke), but thinking about it now, I see it. We should hold that high standard over everyone…strive for excellence. Instead, we’re saying, as a culture, that since not everyone can reach a 10 – let’s bring that standard down to a 7, or give people a boost to start from a 4.
We’re only hurting ourselves. As a culture, and a nation, we used to be the leader in education and STEM industries. We’re nowhere near that now. Some people want to blame the teachers, some want to blame the politicians. We need to hold ourselves responsible. Teachers and politicians aren’t in our homes or raising our kids (though unfortunately, in some cases, teachers are given that task as well). We blame them when something horrible happens, or we fail to meet a standard, but we never look at what we’re saying as a culture. As a culture, we glorify and idolize celebrities who do nothing more than make fools of themselves. We ridicule those who seek to improve themselves as “stuck-up” or elitist. Yet we still want to claim that we’re the greatest in the world.
If we’re not striving for and pursuing excellence in everything we do, what right do we have to claim excellence? NONE. As a nation, as parents, as individuals, we need to be holding 10’s over everyone. Yes, some people will fall short. Not everyone is good at everything. I SUCK at higher math and yard work. I know this about myself. Hold yourself and those around you to a higher standard. Hold your elected officials to a higher standard. If everyone does that, we’ll meet it – we’ll have no choice but to do that.