"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Future Street Sweepers (or not)

So many people seem to view parenting as if they are workers on assembly line, trying to churn out a quality product. That envisioned end product would vary from parent to parent I suppose, but at its core it is the same thing: something the PARENT deems worthwhile. They want a child that grows up to be some of version of "successful." They want good grades, they want an athlete, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. They want to be able to brag about honor rolls and dean's lists and signing bonuses. And they've got them on a conveyor belt long before that! It's a race to see who can walk first, talk first, read first. Sleep through the night, tie your shoes, do long division. MUST TURN OUT A QUALITY PRODUCT.

Everyone is so concerned with how their children are going to "turn out." My issues with this are multiple, but among the top few are: Who decides whether or not they turned out well? WHEN do they decide they turned out any way at all? When they're adults? What's an adult? 18, 21, 30? What are they until then, ingredients? Are they just a part of a whole, not really a person until they've grown up and checked everything off some mystical checklist? Who decides what's on the checklist, and why would that person be more qualified to do so than the child himself?

I'm not interested in raising cookie-cutter children.

My kids are people now, people deserving of respect, trust, and freedom. I'm not concerned with how they're going to turn out; I'm concerned with their happiness RIGHT NOW, right in this moment. I want them to know that they're valued and loved for who they are, not who they may or may not be "someday." I want them to be joyful, fulfilled, engaged, learning, exploring. I want them to be who they are.

And the future? None of us is guaranteed a future. But if I'm blessed enough to watch all my children grow up? I want them to be happy. I want them to be joyful, fulfilled, engaged, learning, exploring. I want them to be who they are.

My hope for all of my children is that they find what they're passionate about, and they DO IT, and do it well, no matter what it is. My hope is that they wake up each morning excited for life, and excited to follow their own particular dream. They will decide what path they'll take, and they will decide what makes them successful. My job is to provide, support, encourage, and get the heck out of their way.

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well." - Martin Luther King Jr.


Erika Seirup said...

This moved me. This is something I have an internal struggle with. Maybe because it's how I was raised, to believe success only could be achieved in a few ways (college degree, high job status, etc) and that I was on a conveyor belt from the time I was 4. "I" will never be good enough in some peoples eyes, for the life I have chosen. I want to break that cycle, and it is uplifting to read your blog.

Alice said...

Love this! Charlie and I are dedicated to raising our children with this respect and freedom, but it requires constant vigilance against outside pressures and our own prejudices. It's so helpful to read things like this for reality checks, and virtual support. Your kids are lucky to have you.


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