Parenting for Now or Later?
I just found a great community blog, Working Parents, that resides at BusinessWeek.com, that covers a wide variety of topics from a great group of men and women. Bookmark it and check it out!
As I was scanning, I found a post from Anne Tergesen offering perspective on the recent American Academy of Perdiatrics study I cited in a Dad in Progress: Media Distortionism of the Average American Family">previous post, citing the importance of just letting children play over always having structured activities.
Anne claims that what the AAP study suggests seems obvious to her, but that she also feels like she's the only mom in Manhattan to think it's obvious, since other families aren't acting this way.
Is it obvious?
I tend to think it is. But most parents don't take it on board and make it reality in their daily routines. Are we afraid that, even thought it makes sense, our kids may fall behind the others? Do we worry that we'll be judged for having kids who are only okay at kicking a ball, but who can effortlessly pull random objects together to tell a fantastic story or a great looking piece of art? Maybe we secretly resent letting our children roam free and explore their inner beings while we as parents are stuck in the frantic routine of work, life and housekeeping?
Let's face it: life is all about how we stack up. From the moment we're born, we enter a competitive race to hold our own, be heard, make a difference, achieve, develop, learn, succeed. We can't help but wonder how we compare to the guy next to us. Doctors and academics tell us how we rank against the national average. Surveys and studies try to place us into categories of "helicopter moms" and "slacker dads" and we allow ourselves to be defined in these ways.
So maybe sometimes we need to stay mindful of what we're developing our children toward, which in the short-term could easily be deemed "happy, healthy, normal children," but in the long-term is "confident, respected and successful person."
I often hear in my own workplace comments like "Her creativity, problem solving skills and ability to see the big picture helped her lead the team to a strong result." But I rarely hear "Gee, he is such a great soccer player."
Now, for my common closing message: it's ALWAYS about a balance. Some structure and some free time are, in my opinion, the best path forward. But, I do think sometimes we need to remind ourselves we're preparing children for life, and then recognize those things in our daily routines that really make people stand out as a guide for what we do now.