I was hanging around downtown this weekend when I overheard some moms talking about their kids; really, what else occupies most of a mom's conversations?
One was complaining that her daughter was more interested in being a mother than having a career. The other said her teen was thinking about doing something in video gaming — not OK by her. At some point, they each said the fateful two words: "I wish ..."
Meaning, they wished that their kid — but you can apply the same disappointment to husbands/wives, lovers, bosses, friends, whatever — was other than what he/she is.
Might as well wish upon a star.
One of the hardest things about being a parent is realizing that our kids don't turn out the way we imagined they would. Sometimes they do, but generally, not.
They don't view the world our way, they don't like what we like, what's easy for us is hard for them, they fall in love with someone of the "wrong" gender or race, and on and on.
Because — guess what? — each is his or her own person. Not us.
Somehow, that's really hard for parents, to accept our kids for who and what they are and not what we want them to be.
Of course, you can force them to live the life you want for them, and, after 20 years or so of them hating you and spending thousands of dollars in therapy, they'll write a scathing best-selling memoir (think Augusten Burroughs) that will get optioned into a movie featuring the wrong actress playing you ("Julia Roberts?! I am not Julia Roberts! I am so Cate Blanchett!")
So when I came upon a column, "Parents obsess over so-called flaws," by esteemed child psychologist John Rosemond, whose sage advice I sought on and off in my early childhood parenting years, I read it. Everyone should read it — parents especially, but anyone who seeks to be in a relationship with another person, too.
(I)t is the rare parent these days who is content with a child who is “good enough.” The child’s flaws — whether social, academic, or personality — become the stuff of obsession. In order to confirm that his parents are doing a first-rate job, he needs to make good grades, make friends easily, be less temperamental/more demonstrative, be more conscientious/less the perfectionist, be more assertive/less assertive, more thoughtful/less introspective, and so on. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
“But we don’t want him to grow up like this,” object the parents of the not-good-enough child.
So what if he does?
And what if our partner isn't more demonstrative, conscientious; less the perfectionist; more assertive; less assertive; more thoughtful; less introspective ....
Good enough just doesn't cut it nowadays.
One of the greatest blessings of being a parent is being able to learn from our kids, and good parents can learn more from our kids than we can teach them. What a surprise that is!
In his column, Rosemond mentions one of my favorite books as a child, and one I read to The Kid in his childhood, Munro Leaf's "The Story of Ferdinand," the story of a bull who wasn't interested in fighting. He just wanted to smell the flowers in the fields of his youth.
And he lived a happy — for him — life.
Can you accept your own child's — or partner's — definition of happiness?
Or do you want — or demand — more?