And so it begins. The dark side of parenting comes out and I was taken aback at my reaction. A friend of mine shared with me a beautiful audio recording of her daughter reciting the alphabet. It was the cutest thing ever and I enjoyed. Her daughter is 3 months older and then I started to think to myself, my son is hardly saying any words. I mean kids change fast, but he only has 3 months before he should be saying his ABC’s as well. What if he doesn’t? Am I bad parent? Is my kid not going to be very smart?
And it’s happened other times as well. When he shows interest in a particular thing, my mind starts to race. He likes playing drums, he’s not even 2, what if he’s going to be this amazing drummer? How awesome would that be? Hey there is this kid on YouTube the same age as my son playing the drums and he is much better than my son. Crap my son isn’t special!
So I confess my mind has gone to such places, but before you start to lecture me I just want you to know that my anxiety passed as quickly as it came, but it makes you think why one would have such a reaction? Of course it’s a common stereotype, that parent living out their dreams through their child. Or perhaps just as common, are the parents using their kid as a pawn to compete with other parents to show each other up to determine who is the better parent, because they have the better kid? So I had to seriously contemplate whether I was this type of parent. Where were these feelings of anxiety and competitiveness coming from? Why is it important to me that my son be extraordinary in some way?
So dismissing the idea that I might be a crazy person I thought about this sort of biological reaction I had when my son was born, for him to grow and get stronger. While it is important to enjoy the moment, I think it’s natural for a parent to want to see this growth in their child. Self-reliance is ultimately our goal, even if at the same time it sucks so bad when they don’t need us anymore. There are a lot of people in this world and so it seems also reasonable that we would have this drive for our children to be extraordinary at some particular thing or to have a natural talent that drives them in a particular direction. It can be the easy ticket to self-reliance. Rich or poor when they have some inherent gift to fall back on, it’s a feeling of security as a parent. You may have heard the stereotype before that all Indian parents want their kids to become doctors. A well deserved stereotype actually. My uncle was one of those parents who wanted their children to become doctors. The reason he gave for this was that doctors are never unemployed, they are always needed and thus his children are always assured in an income. Being originally from India where there was no social safety net, where poverty was and still is fairly high, I can understand such a philosophy. They were however well off and my cousins very well educated, they would be successful in anything they chose. But as I see the places my own mind goes I understand the obsessive Indian parent constantly pushing their children towards medical school. I of course never would force my own child into anything in particular, because in the end I can’t ignore the fact that my child is an autonomous being who needs to be free to make decisions for his self.
In the end, the right answer just seems to be to just remember to love, to encourage, and to teach them to learn well, wherever their interests lie. Teach them the value of determination, teach them the value of caring about what you are doing and taking pride in your own work. Whether my son is extraordinary or not, he will always be extraordinary to me and that’s a gift in of itself. I think it’s the hardest thing to know as a parent. How do you make your child self-reliant? There are so many avenues to that destination it’s easy to get lost. Perhaps the best I can do is to trust in myself and my own self-reliance to do well in the moment and stop trying to worry and predict the future.