A couple of weeks ago my son’s school was having its annual open house for parents. It’s usually a day where parents get to meet their children’s teachers, get to know the school, take a look at the classrooms of their children, know any additions to the school staff, meet classmates of their children and their parents and so on.
I dragged my little one, Arkan, who is almost 2 years old now, and went with my older son, Adam, to his school, and we were among the first people to arrive. So we got the chance to chat with all teachers and most of the school staff, comfortably, walk around to see everywhere Adam goes to, his favorite spots, and his least favorite ones too, and needless to say, hyper Arkan was just overwhelmed with excitement, running around like crazy, trying to climb up desks, hide inside lockers… and eat crayons 😕.
On that day, like every year, many children volunteer to do a certain activity to entertain the visitors, like playing a musical instrument, showing off some martial arts skills and things like that.)… I guess he was so happy to see that part of his older brother’s life that he knew nothing about.
Since we were early, we were done with our school tour early, and had a lot of time to enjoy all presentations and volunteer activities. A couple of Adam’s classmates and their parents were walking around with us, when one stopped and asked us to watch her son play the piano. I got all excited, and ran to get a nice spot, and the kid started playing. He was amaaaazing! I loved every piece he played, loved his talent and skills, his confidence and charisma. The mom, was looking at me and the other parents who were gathering, probably to see our reaction and feed her ego with our compliments and impressed or jealous faces. She saw me urging Adam to dance to the music (and boy is he a great dancer 😍), and watched me rocking Arkan, who, at that particular moment, made his way from my arms to the floor and looked as if he was raised in a night club with all his silly dance moves 😀
She got closer to me and whispered: “Does Adam know how to play the piano?”, and I replied: “Nope, he doesn’t like to play the piano”
Other mom: “Mine either, but I force him because he’s so talented”
Me: “He sure is, but why force him?”
Other mom: “Because he’s so good, look!”
Me: “He is excellent, but what’s the point in forcing him? so we can have fun and dance to him play this music? for him to become famous? (or for you to show off_ thinking to myself) ”
Other mom: ” Because it would be such a waste”
Me: “If you say so” … because I really really had no energy to argue.
Other mom: “He’s also learning 2 foreign languages, plays hockey, baseball, soccer, tennis and goes to Taekwondo practice every other day”.
Me: “Hmm, impressive, good for him (or you)”
Other mom: “He only likes Hockey, the rest, his dad is forcing him.. laughs a stupid laugh. You’ve got to keep them busy.”
Me: (you’re sick) “Nice, nice, any new “hobbies” you’re thinking of forcing on to your son?”
Other mom: “Hahaha, you’re funny. But no, this is already too much.”
Me:” (so you do know it’s too much) Well, I really have to go, see you around!”
Other mom: “See you!”
But then I thought to myself, wouldn’t I love it if my son was the perfect boy? This talented piano player, that awesome drummer, the impressive karate kid, the cool hockey player, or the genius inventor? Wouldn’t I love it if he was the straight A’s student, always top of his class? Wouldn’t I just love it if my Adam was the best there is?
Hell yeah! But if that meant forcing him to do something he’s not into with all his heart, then what’s the point? What makes a child perfect in the eyes of others, doesn’t necessarily make him happy or successful. We need to stop pushing our kids to do things WE like, or keep them busy every second of the day because this “should” make them better people!
What many parents are doing to their poor kids in the name of “investing in their future” is just shameful and is killing every bit of creativity and sense of self that children possess.
Kids need a break, they need to know that their value isn’t in the grades they get or the amount of activities they’re engaged in, they need to understand and realize that their abilities are not defined by a mark on a piece of paper alone, that their happiness and success shouldn’t be measured by what people perceive as good and special, but by what will unleash their hidden potential, light their eyes up and drive them to give all they’ve got. It’s the sense of accomplishment, from their own point of view, the hard work and confidence that they will reach their goals if they walk the right path, for them, not us, and if their parents invest in them, the right way.
This is one of the most brilliant talks I’ve heard about this topic so far, hope all parents, especially the competitive ones, would learn from it and take it easy on their children, because, trust me, over-parenting is destructive.