Friday, April 6, 2012

Dear Real World

Dear Real World,

You are what we parents try to prepare our children for, aren't you?  We want our kids to be ready for you when the time comes for them to stretch their wings and fly.  Well, I seem to be a little confused about how to teach my kids for you.  Let me explain.

We've taught our kids right from wrong in settings such as school, home, in public, etc.  They know all about 'standing in line' and 'waiting for your turn'.  They know not to say mean things or be violent.  They certainly know about listening and following directions.  Maybe all too well.

One day, Dear Husband watched Dear Son through an extracurricular classroom door where the children were engaged in a group activity.  DH later described to me what he saw.  The children were lined up to take turns and toss a ball into a target.  DS was at the end of the line.  Well, somehow, he just seemed to have stayed at the end because other children kept cutting in front of him.  There was a lot of pushing and shoving, and other kids had several turns before he even had one.  DH was so frustrated watching this that he wanted to go inside the classroom and get him to have a turn.  (But of course, he held back like any sane parent would do).

But DS just stood there, patiently, waiting for his turn.  La-di-da.  He was neither upset or impatient at all the action around him.  Eventually, he got his turn and he did his thing.  And then he went to the back of the line, just to miss a few more ball-tossing opportunities.  It turns out that he did all the things he was taught to do.  But from a bystander's point of view, where did that get him?  Several lost turns, kids taking advantage of his unassertive personality, and getting nowhere for actually following directions.  Which makes us parents wonder and worry, how would he fare in the real world?

Dear Daughter also has a very quiet disposition.  She never causes trouble, voices dissenting views, or makes mean remarks about anyone.  She stays out of the limelight, and is quite content getting along with her small group of friends at school.  When I was growing up, by her age, I already had numerous tearful moments when others were mean to me or hurt me physically, not to mention that I also bullied others myself (um, yeah).  DD has never had such an incident.  The only time she remembers something remotely close to being bullied was when a group of older boys had not-so-nicely told her and her friends to leave the part of the playground they wanted to play in.  Either her school is doing a great job with its anti-bullying message (which it really is), or she has just managed to stay away from trouble (which she really has). 

But here's my fleeting thought.  If she has never even experienced any real conflict thus far, how will she fare in the real world?  When something negative does happen, will it rain down like a ton of bricks on her and completely wipe out her self worth since she's never felt it before?  How do we prepare her for the real world without having her know what it's really like out there?  How do we let them go out there when we know there will be hurt gotten?  How do we balance the 'wish to protect' with the 'wish for them to fare well'?

Chances are, people who are not afraid to step over others' toes and take advantage of opportune moments will go farther than their counterparts.  (I don't think I need to name any examples here; we can all think of many).  Likewise, people who have had lots of painful experiences in life may be wiser but may also turn away from facing more emotional chances.  Hmmmm.  Which end do I want to be on, and which end do I want my kids to be on?

No, instead of coming with nice, hardbound instruction manuals, our kiddos just come to us all by their naked selves, and makes us parents figure this stuff out.  I suppose somewhere along the way, we use our own experiences to decide which end is the better end of the stick.  Well, as I write my own Parenting Manual, I declare Trust.

So, Real World, do you see what I mean?  How do I do my job when you are not always so kind, but moreover, a necessary evil and a rite of passage for my darlings?  I guess I must just Trust that they believe in what they do: whether or not they think achieving success at the expense of others is okay, and whether or not being jaded is disallowing true, full, and deep experiences.  And we parents would support them which ever end they choose, so long as they are good with it.  (This is not to say I am no longer in muddy water; I will not see clearly until I know which end my kiddos choose, at which I time I will still wonder if we taught them 'right'.)  What do you say, Real World, how about if you throw me a bone or two to help me write my Parenting Manual? 



  1. Your kids definitely have the good end of the deal. While the world lives in turmoil, DS and DD have found their center and therefore peace. Peace during turmoil is such a gift. It's helps you think first and then act which is a quality most people do not have.

    Growing up for me was full of hurt, pain and adversity mixed with drama, fun, love and trouble. That led to an attitude and detentions, which was kind of fun but that's another story. Somewhere along the way I learned how to stay calm during craziness and it feels really good when i can manage myself! :) Sure i'm resilient but i'm tired already. I already feel like i have had a long life and i'm not even 40!

    Maybe DS knows what we all know and that is that throwing a ball at a target is an activity better suited for monkeys (like my children).

    1. Oh, Helen, you are hilarious. I hear you about being tired! Will we ever have energy again? I sure do hope that my kiddos have a center to navigate them. I can relate to how you grew up; mine was very similar... Isn't it amazing that we turned out okay? That does give me hope for my kiddos. =)

  2. It's really hard when there are all those shades of grey, isn't it? I'd rather know right from wrong and then judge later where I bend that than be the one bending and pushing constantly and not having any awareness of - or care for - those around me. And you know what... if my kids are ok and HAPPY taking their time and not pushing to the forefront of every situation, I'm totally good with that. They're happy; I'm happy.

    1. Yes, I agree. That is how I feel, too. I just had to get out some steam about the injustice of it all. Like when DS was younger, and I watched him get pushed out of line by a girl. He just looked at her, and didn't do anything. It's hard for parents to watch their kids get pushed around like that. I'm pretty sure I know my kiddos' personalities and how they will fare in the Real World. You gotta just keep hoping for the best, right? =)

  3. Sandra,
    one thing that I learned and it was so hard for me to let go is that we can't and shouldn't fix it for our children. All those moments are learning opportunities for us to teach them certain lessons and ethics. It has become quite apparent for me now that my daughter is in middle school and is trying to navigate the teenage years. As much as I want to call the ex-friend mom to see if I can patch it up, I need to stay out of the way.

    I have a friend who always knows what to say and she is the one who told me that as hard as it is to see my children suffer, it is part of life, a way to learn that they are going to be okay, not matter how it hurts at the moment. Running to their rescue only creates children that won't be able to deal with the pain and disappointments life will bring them. I see them as little tree, if you stake them too long, the trunk will never get strong enough to survive a very big storm, trees need to sway with the wind to build strong trunks. Doesn't it sound totally true for our children too?

    Happy Easter!

    1. Laura, I like your tree analogy, and you are addressing exactly the next part of this... the part when the kiddos DO feel adversity, and how they will react to it. I completely agree with you, and you are very smart and strong to hold back from fixing things. While I know that's what's right to do, it won't be what my heart wants to do -- especially while seeing your children suffer -- but it's a challenge we parents must all face. I hope I will have that willpower when time comes.

      I do think it's important to show emotional support, though, when they're down, offer help if they ask for it, and be there for them to answer questions. But to actively do something to "fix" things "for" them is a different story. I'll certainly be looking to you when I have to cross those bridges down the line! Thanks for your comments, and Happy Easter to you, too!