Monday, January 30, 2006

Of Noble Stations

Here in The Realm, (while many need not hear this at all, I'm quite certain) some of us parents gallop straight-long into the mistake of that middle-ages-old problem of desiring our sons to be knights and our daughters to be princesses, and then exhorting them in those directions alone. Sometimes, our station may be such that those goals might be all but impossible, yet we maintain them while neglecting the aspirations of those we are attempting to mold. For what could possibly be better for them than to be Cinderella at the ball or Lancelot du Lac, the most famous knight that never lost a joust or duel? We only want what's best for them, and in our utmost discernment, we realize what that best is.

I received an e-mail from a good friend a couple days ago. In it he wrote (emphasis mine):

We have had to release [their oldest son's name] a little from our grip and let him sink or swim on his own with his homework, karate, and all things he wants to achieve. It is amazing how difficult it is not to try to mold a child into my preconceived notion of what will be good for him. He is just not me and cannot benefit from "wisdom" I try to force on him. That's not how wisdom works.

Wisdom. I love how it does work. After rearing his child for ten years, my friend has discovered (probably a while before he wrote the e-mail) that knighthood befits his child not at all. Thus, to send him into a squire's apprenticeship instead of encouraging the lad's love and gifts of tending a Realm orchard would someday eat away at his grown boy's soul. Perhaps another parent sees their daughter as the supreme medic of The Realm and foresees sending her off to only the best of The Realm's educational institutions and medic labs, yet their daughter's dream is that of a glass blower -- to make craft so beautiful that all in The Realm of Possibilty are moved by it. Unfortunately, as wise parents, we understand that a living in glass-blowing is a hard one, and our child can do more... be more... than their youthful and wistful dreams allow.

The fact is, some are going to desire knighthood with all their heart and soul. Others will prefer to work the lord's gardens. Neither station is nobler than the other. However, what happens when we've pushed that gardener half-heartedly into the knighthood, and he stands to face the afore-mentioned Lancelot in a battle of honor yet then fails to compete? Anger, diminishment of our sense of pride as parents, and the rejuvenated fire to push harder, which only damages the young knight's psyche all the more.

At some points as parents we must take inventory of our little ones, see their strengths and weaknesses, interests and dreams, and then dare ourselves to support them in those... even if the dreams only amount to being that man wheeling the cart from house to house during the plagues, shouting, "Bring out your dead!"

[Note: Sorry if this sounds preachy; I'm sure it does to some degree. However, I think so many have been affected by the parental ideal for us as children/teens/youths, and we bring that baggage into our relationships as parents, that sometimes it just needs to be said, even if it is common sense. And then, sometimes I'm just getting something off my chest. You can decide which it is this time. And as always, blessed are those who can be offended by what I write and look past it to see the bright, sunshiny me behind the words :) ]

10 comments:

P&S said...

Great Post!!

I'm going to have to re-read and think about it for a while. Very deep stuff here.

codepoke said...

Fortunately, your children will be very helpful in this "letting go" process.

Anonymous said...

Rich & Ken,

No matter how hard I try I can NEVER get into Pro Football. I prefer College Ball but perhaps not too much. Seems I never have enough time to read or write – I can’t justify spending hours of my life watching football interspersed with 33% commercials.

Jamie (writing from Monterey, California – this week)

P&S said...

Good to hear from you Jamie!

Isn't it neat how cell phones and the Internet make the world seem a little smaller.

I was in Boston last week, but when I hopped into the Realm of Possibility I felt closer to home.

Be careful and let us be your home away from home.

Harry said...

My oldest daughter is a “goon.” I say this with a great deal of pride because she loves it. I am referring to her role as a defensive player in hockey. My youngest daughter is a center and left winger. She scores the goals. There are no girl’s teams in the city so they have to play with the boys. Full contact. I worry about them every time they get on the ice, but they absolutely love it and I love watching them.

I guess I bring this up to point out that sometimes they may surprise you if you let them. I have just the two girls and love them dearly and would not change a thing. But after they came along and we decided two was enough, I was concerned about not having a boy. I played the big 3 growing up and really enjoy them as a spectator today. I knew I would not have the opportunity to teach a son what little I knew in hopes that he would be better than I, so I accepted that fact and resolved myself to sipping empty tea cups and brushing hair all wrong. Through some unique opportunities in our lives, they took up hockey. (I never played hockey in my life, can’t stand up on ice, and knew none of the rules until they started playing. Go figure.) Now the “goon” would like nothing better than to put you through the glass or check you right over the sideboards back onto your bench. But you would never know this by looking at her. She, and my youngest coincidently enough, are the two prettiest, girly looking girls I know. The goon even manages to bring some femininity to the game with her pink hair ribbon and princess stickers on her helmet. (Your picture of the princesses at the beginning of the post spurred this thought.) I think she does it to let the kid know, as he peels himself off the glass, that yes, you just got body checked by a girl, and not in a pleasant way. If that weren’t enough, the youngest is also one of the best shortstops I know and finished 5th in the league in hitting last year.

I guess my point here is that because I have girls, I do not have many preconceived notions of what they need to pursue. It’s hard enough figuring out what they’re talking about half the time. I do the best I can to grow their faith, teach them how to treat other people, and equip them with the tools they will need to be successful in whatever they choose to do. Thankfully, even after all that wisdom, I still get to see my goon crush some poor kid into the ice.

Rich said...

Man, does anyone else think Harry needs to be blogging instead of commenting?

I think she does it to let the kid know, as he peels himself off the glass, that yes, you just got body checked by a girl

I absolutely LOVE that attitude!!!

Your girls sounds awesome, and keep on keeping on -- both them and you.

P&S said...

I know I do.

The phrase "resolved myself to sipping empty tea cups and brushing hair all wrong" paints such a picture.

Reading his comment, I almost wanted to cry (and this is the 10% of me being serious).

Harry is the man!!Still waters run deep. And he's funny, too.

'Course I'm already on record as saying that this was a great post, Rich. So, perhaps you're more inspirational than we knew (there's that other 90% rearing its head again).

Rich said...

Ken,

There's no way the post is that deep, because I'm not that deep. I do have a stake in it, though, having two boys and a girl - and I'm not above what I've written about.

Funny isn't that that the C-train is a Miami Dolphin fan, loves football and baskteball, plays but is ambivalent about baseball (as we all should be - ambivalent, that is, not playing), loves superheroes, and enjoys so many things I do? I often wonder how much I'm pushing him towards this stuff. There's a fine line, and I'm not sure where it's drawn, between my pushing and him being cut from the same cloth as me. Also, there's some of that "magic" that will fall away sooner or later with kids sort of idolizing their parents, and boys wanting to be like their dads. He's still in that stage to a large degree.

Not so with my younger son, although I love his world, too, but it's in the realm of faerie, pirates, and Peter Pan. It's much easier for me to pick up balls and toss them with my oldest than to get into the fantasy world and play with swords, eyepatches, and imaginations for hours at a time. But I have to make time. Still, I'm fairly sure I'm not doing much pushing there.

With my 8 1/2 month old girl, we'll just see. But like Harry, I'm not sure I have many presuppositions of what it's supposed to be like raising a girl.

Going back, though, I like staying and playing with my kids in the shallow end of the pool. You'll get nothing too deep from me.

Belinda said...

Rich,
This post finally brought me out of hiding, or "lurking" as you and Ken call it. I can relate to it both as a parent and a child. I was a total tomboy as a kid. My favorite pastime was to play whatever sport was in season, and when I wasn't playing, I was memorizing the stats of my favorite players. I'm the middle of three sisters and was definitely never pushed into playing sports. I just loved to play. But, as I got older, I noticed that most girls didn't enjoy sports like I did, so I dropped out of playing on teams, and my parents didn't encourage me to continue.

Looking back, I have many regrets. I think I would have been much happier to have continued pursuing what I loved and was gifted in rather than searching all during high school and most of college to find that thing in life I could really enjoy and pour myself into. My parents thought they were doing the right thing by not pushing me in anything, but I really wish they had pushed me a little more. I was a kid. I didn't know any better. I thought I was supposed to be like all the other girls. My life would have been very different if my parents had been like Harry-really encouraging their daughter to crush those boys in the dirt/ice/court/track/grass,etc.!
(All in a very feminine way, of course.)

One of the most enjoyable things I get to do now as a Mom is to play every sport under the sun with one of my own children. I love to see him learning and enjoying the same things I love and enjoy. But, I also have a son who couldn't care less about sports. He loves super heroes, drawing, and all things creative. I appreciate his talents so much and am trying to encourage him to take those talents and run with them. I hope he doesn't give up on them just because a lot of other boys would rather be playing sports. I hope he finds a career that allows him to showcase his God-given talents. I also have a daughter who is trying all the sports as well as the girly stuff like dancing. (Thanks to her, I finally saw the inside of a dance studio!) My secret dream for her is that she'll be a soccer star/ballerina-a great combination of strength and beauty. But, that's my dream, maybe not hers. Time will tell.

I have made much progress since my tomboy days and actually enjoy trendy clothes, jewelry, shoes, make-up, and other prissy stuff. I'm now getting to enjoy the best of both worlds. I hope each of my children will learn to see themselves as a unique creation of immeasurable worth. Because of my own regrets, I realize how powerful I can be as a parent to either build up my children and help them realize their full potential or tear them down and make it very difficult for them to find their way to fulfillment.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I'll try not to be so serious in the future...that is if I find any future posts to be worth a response. (You see, just kidding. Not so serious already.)

Rich said...

Belinda,

Thanks so much for responding, and it's fine to be serious whenever you want or light-hearted whenever you want.

Boyoboy, I'm starting to feel like the post wasn't worthy of some of the comments it's received.

Regardless, it hurts to hear that you have many regrets. I'm sure we all have lots of things we wish we wouldn't have done, but "the things you miss out on" resonate to a much deeper level most of the time. Probably because the regrets we wish we wouldn't have done have been put behind us, whether from forgiveness, forgetfulness, or repression; meanwhile, those things we wish we would have done tend to linger and affect our psyches for a lot of our lives. We don't let go of those as easily. At least you're using some of the ill effects of regret in a positive way with your own children.

And sometimes, even if we do everything right (or as right as we know it), things are going to go wrong. Stuff happens. But if it's going to go wrong (it won't always) I'd really prefer to err on the side of my child's dreams and talents rather than the side of my dreams for my child.

Because it hurts the child when you push them in the wrong direction and also when you don't encourage them in the ones where we see their dreams and talents (and hopefully the dreams/talents are meshing - rarely do we see a boy dreaming of being a fisherman if he's deathly afraid of water), I can't stress enough that we should continually examine our children, noting their strengths, talents, and aspirations. Hopefully, we examine ourselves fairly regularly, spiritually and otherwise. But when we see where they're blossoming, then we need to support them with all our hearts.

I have enough trouble dealing with my own life, so I can't judge anyone else in this regard (especially negatively). However, from everything that you've written (and that I've seen), I think you're doing wonderfully.