Why are we not giving our children a reason to grow up? I will fully admit that this Why Letter is probably more self-reflection than it is advice, but who says it can’t be both? I think maybe for the point of this post it is best to start at the beginning, well at least my beginning.
I grew up in the country. When I say country I actually mean the country. It was 7 miles to a gas station and a little grocery store. We were 45 miles from a stop light and movie theatre. There was not a lot to do at home besides entertaining ourselves. TV when we had it consisted of three channels via antennae. We had a mom, and dad, and there were five of us kids. Dad worked full-time at one job as well as odd jobs to make ends meet. We were poor by most people’s standards. Mom had her chair she always set in. It was a rule that Mom and Dad got a chance to talk when Dad got home. They both got to drink soda and we didn’t. They got to stay up late and we had to go to bed.
I remember growing up wanting to grow up and move away. There were several different reasons I wanted that to happen. I wanted to be my own boss and not have my parents telling me what to do. I wanted to drink soda whenever I wanted to. I wanted to go to school, get a job and have nice cars, a nicer house, and stuff. I wanted to work hard so my kids would have better stuff. I did all that and now I’m thinking, was I right?
I have been extremely lucky. I have three great kids. I currently have one that is a junior in high school, one who is an eighth grader, and a kindergartner. They are good boys and we have been very blessed. They have good manners (thanks to my wife), they are very smart, they don’t get in trouble at school and I really have no complaints about my kids. They have a better life than I did growing up as far as stuff. They pretty much have anything they could ever want and much more than I could have ever dreamed of while I was growing up. In fact, in many ways, their life is better than my life right now. They do not talk about growing up and moving away. The oldest is trying to figure out how he can go to college and still stay at home.
That’s why I am writing this letter. Are we doing our kids a disservice by making their lives as good or better than ours as parents? Are we not giving them any reasons to grow up and make their own lives better? I have worked in pediatrics long enough that some of my patients have grown up and become adults. Some of them now bring their own children to see me and it makes me smile to see them doing well. But there are some that are refusing to grow up. They are still living with their parents, working part-time crappy jobs, and have no real drive to do anything more. They have no reason to grow up, everything they ever wanted is right there at home. I look at them and it makes me sad, they had great parents who did so much for them, did they do too much? Are we raising kids that have no reason to go out and make the world a better place because the place was already too good for them? Do we give them an example of a reason they should want to grow up and be like us, or are we working ourselves to death to give them this amazing life, and we are left looking like the servants that nobody would ever want to be like?
As I said this letter is a lot of self-reflection on my part. Maybe it is time for us as parents to start living the life we were wanting as kids. It will give us a sense of accomplishment and if we make it look fun enough it will give our kids something to shoot for so they can grow up and have great lives as we do. It’s just a thought.