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?