One weekend, my husband and I were taking a long walk to a park when a group of ethnically diverse students from a local (very prestigious) university ran by us at a brisk jogging pace.
Me: I wouldn’t mind if Lemon Cake goes to (name of this university). I would want him to have the determination and will power to wake up early on a cold weekend morning to go jogging.
Hubby: What if Lemon Cake just wants to lounge around in the morning with pajamas on?
Hubby: I like doing that. What’s wrong with that?
Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s not like I am willing to jog a hundred million miles on a cold weekend morning, or any morning really. It just stems from my insecurities and what I (not so) secretly want my children to become, mistakenly seeing them as an extension of myself. Despite my education background and all the parenting books I read, I just can’t help it sometimes. Interestingly, my husband doesn’t have that problem. I am sure part of it is cultural, but that topic is for another blog another time.
It’s not that I have any specific plans for them, like Lemon Cake should be a doctor or successful businessman, and baby Banana should be a brilliant scientist or college professor. My mom has asked me a few times now what my plans are for my children’s lives and futures. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t even know what they are going to be interested in. I just know that for now they like to play and move a lot. How could I “plan” anything? I do want them to be both successful AND content with their lives, whatever success means to them. What I really want for my children are specific personality and temperamental traits, and I so want to believe that if we only parent “correctly”, they will become what we want them to be.
A lot of what I want for my children is what I perceive to be lacking in myself. I want Lemon Cake and baby Banana to be very confident and self-assured, and to not always worry about what other people think. I want them to be able to think critically, to stand up for themselves and for those who are weaker, to be strong in their bodies, to be even keeled, to be courageous and to want to make a difference in society. If only my husband and I can instill these qualities in them, they will be fine in life. They will end up making the right choices for themselves. They will be able to stand up after failures and learn from their mistakes. They will be good to their families and their society.
In my opinion, the mom in the article linked to at the top of this post does not have an ordinary child. An ordinary child would not stand up to bullies or make speeches to an unfamiliar crowd of peers. I am so happy for this child and his mother that he was voted to be vice president for student council. He will no doubt make a positive impact on the school environment. He is definitely no ordinary child.
I, on the other hand, was an ordinary child. I just wanted to be accepted and not cause trouble. I wanted to be nice and blend in. I wanted to be popular, but in a way that didn’t stand out. As for my kids, I don’t want them to be popular or to seek popularity. I want them to stay true to themselves regardless of the circumstances, and feel free to make eccentric and unusual choices without worrying what everyone else is doing. I don’t ever want them to feel compelled to conform, or confined by opinions and expectations the way I did (and sometimes still do).
In discussing this topic with my husband, he pointed out the contradiction in trying to parent in such a way as to mold a child into a person who would break free of external constructs. Perhaps there is a lesson in this contradiction.