Sadly, my dad passed away this past weekend. He was 84 and lived a full life. Many times he commented to me that he couldn’t believe he lived this long. When he was a child, he told me, living to 65 seemed like a reasonable expectation. I am glad he beat his own expectations and gave us many more years to be with him. Dad came from a generation where you lived up to your responsibilities. He didn’t complain about it and believed that one of the most important things you could do was to teach your children was to become independent adults. He didn’t coddle us, but also did judge us too harshly. He was always there if needed.
I’m very concerned about the artificial reality we are creating for kids today. Everyone gets a medal or award. Disappointment and/or adversity is to be avoided at all costs. We are also teaching our children that they are the center of the family universe and everything revolves around them: their needs, wants, etc. If we let them to think everything they do is exceptional, then ultimately nothing they do will be. We allow them to continually isolate themselves socially and retreat into the comfort of impersonal technological communication without the wisdom of understanding the dynamics of human and social interaction. We worship their youth but then push them to grow up quickly and act more mature than they actually are (or should be). It’s almost as if a whole generation of parents is trying to make up for perceived deficiencies from their own childhood. We are forgetting how to be parents, coaches and teachers and instead striving to become friends, cheerleaders and positive psychologists.
I’ve always believed that children are a gift from God or whatever higher power you choose to believe in. They are here to teach us as much as we are here to guide them. Sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing yourself being reflected back through their actions, attitudes, etc. In other cases, you gain entry into the wondrous world of their own individuality. My hope has always been that they will take the best from their mother and me and leave our flaws behind for us to grapple with on our own.
The goal of any society should be to secure the future of the next generation by providing them with the skills, talents and attitudes necessary for both survival and success. It is a certainty that every generation will have to deal with some level of uncertainty and challenge as they assume responsibility for their own destiny (and that of others).