Ive recently seen this image:
And boy is it something my parenting rulebook is designed around. There’s enough depression and bad energy around. I don’t want my kids to feel as helpless and depressed as I do. I never want my kids to suffer the same debilitating mental health as I do. If my kids feel so self confident when they leave me, then the world can’t harm them. It’ll be water off a ducks back. The world is wrong and my child is right, whatever the world might throw at them.
When my children were born, I ensured their names fit what I envisaged for their life expectancies. Professor Mackenzie, Princess Madison, Captain Llywellyn, Queen Adelaide, Genevieve (whose name installs regal and power implications) and Torin (whose very name means “Chief” in Irish)
I tell my children I don’t care if they get 0/10 in their spelling test, as long as they tried their best. I ask my sons “did you play well?” Rather than “did you win?” When they come home from football, or rugby. I 100% support “participation” awards on sports day. Giving awards for 100% attendance makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.
Participation: Yay! Effort: Hooray! Winning: Who cares?
But now I’m 40 (ok 41, but who’s counting?) and I’m finally waking up to real life.
Telling our children they are amazing and number one is totally great, until life tells them they’re average.
I was always praised for being top of the class. Until I wasn’t. In therapy sessions I always cite my mum asking me “what happened to the other 3%” if I told her I got 97%. I hated university partly because I was definitely near if not actually the bottom of the year.
Ive been on at least two post natal depression courses. And the number one cause of post natal depression is: Expectation vs reality. You’re told having a baby will be wonderful, your life will be filled with love, smiles, teaching and new baby smells.
But then the reality is crying, being alone, extreme tiredness and dirty nappies.
Being told you’re amazing for trying really hard is all great. Until it doesn’t pay the bills.
My eldest two are being told they should be doing x,y and z in order to secure a job. But millions of graduates are failing to get jobs. I watched the Steve Jobs’ film last night. He got fired because his vision didn’t make millions. Even being the best isn’t a guarantee of success.
Its nearly impossible to tell our children they aren’t amazing. This week I had one of my daughter’s parent’s evening. I innocently said to the teacher “I make clever children” she didn’t say anything, but her face told me everything: she thinks my child is average. Of course I know differently and we’ll both (the teacher and me) enjoy her 10 A* GCSE grades that I have absolutely no doubt my daughter is capable of (once she learns how to read and write).
But now, here I am at 40 (ok 41, who’s counting?) and everyone around me tells me I’m amazing. But I’m not. I’m average. And boy does that hurt.
That requires alcohol and anti depressants to live with. Is that what we want for our children? Isn’t happy what we want above everything else for our children? Maybe I should have been told less that I was/am amazing, and more that I’m average and that’s amazing.
Average is amazing.
Who cares who wins? Did you come 15th? Where’s the medal for 15th?
In the real world, no one wants first. They say they do of course. But the first thing they’ll do is beat it out of you. Stephen Hawkings was told his PhD was full of errors (according to the film, which obvs is like watching it happen in real life).
Turns out, doing as you’re told is what we should be praising.
Better to be 15th with potential. No one in the real world wants someone who thinks they’re better than you.
And unfortunately that’s what we’re teaching our children. We’re teaching them they’re better than us.
As parents that’s what we believe. Our children understand technology better than us. They’ll look after us when we’re old. They’ll outlive us. Because they are the future and we are the past.
We’ve even given up educating them. I’m a governor of two schools. The overwhelming ethos for education is that we are educating our children for jobs we don’t understand or comprehend or that even exist yet. We can only educate them in how to learn.
Our children are better than us.
I have six children. Each and every one is better than me. In every single way. And that’s how it should be.
But what does that teach them?
It teaches them to believe they are better than everyone. Surely a child should see its parents as role models. If you are better than your role models you are better than everyone.
But they’re not better than everyone. They’re average.
Some will be prime ministers and CEOs and rock stars. But not straight away.
They’ll have to work their way up.
But who will let them if they never listen to advice or concede they might not know everything straight away?
Are we teaching our children not to listen to advice?
Are we teaching our children that every menial job is beneath them?
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both started in garages. The Beatles started by playing a small club in Liverpool.
Everyone has to start at the bottom. Everyone has to learn a craft. Everyone has to come last.
How can we teach our children to come last in order to come first?
We have to teach our children they are average. (Because we know they are not)
Rather than teaching them they are first (when we know they are not)
And of course, that is the absolute hardest thing we will ever have to do as a parent.
And I for one will fail every single one.