Monday, March 26, 2012

My kid is not better than your kid and I'm OK with that

Easter on etsy is a dangerous search term. Find this here.

This article about aggressive parents ruining an egg hunt in Colorado got me all riled up earlier. This is a pretty easy feat, so don't be too intimidated by the power of the words here. They probably won't cause you to vent to your 3-year-old (who patiently stares at you with "oh great, here we go again" plastered clearly across his cherubic face) about the state of the world. But me? I'm still going strong.

Here's the thing. I get it. I get why parents get aggressive sometimes. Life can be hard, unfair, and competitive. It's hard enough to be the one getting the bull's horns in the groin every day, and it's that much worse when it's your kid. I can even get all bristly if one of my kids gets a well-deserved stink eye for kicking the back of someone's seat at the theater. I'm instantly all "Oh, no, you did not. This is a child." In my mind. In reality, thankfully (so far), the Golden Rule kicks in and I realize that I wouldn't be too happy about this, either, and my kid isn't made of glass, so I make my kid stop it and tell them to apologize. And if I manage to do it kindly, the kickee will usually soften considerably, and my kid isn't scarred for life (and stops with the kicking, already). We all want need to be treated with kindness and respect.

But. Here's the other thing. I'm sick of events like an Easter egg hunt for kids turning into an ultra-competitive free-for-all for adults. Stop that. Not only are you tromping all over the smaller kids to grab eggs for your own kids, but what, exactly, is the lesson here? Is it:

A. If everybody else is behaving badly, you need to do it, too, to "even the playing field"?
B. Life is about getting what's "owed" to you because you are entitled by your very existence?
C. I don't have faith in you to get out there and find your own eggs because you can't do anything well enough on your own?
D. In this family, it is shameful to come away empty-handed or with anything but the blue ribbon?
E. Having fun for the sake of just having fun isn't worthwhile?
or maybe
F. It's more important to me that these other parents don't "win" than it is for you to enjoy this experience?

I'm very worried about the helicopter parenting trend. I certainly participate to a degree, though it's an ongoing, conscious effort to relax and stop it. As a homeschooler, I try especially hard to make sure I back off when I can, favoring a lot of self-directed learning. While it warms my heart to hear Anderson talk about wanting to open a store so the whole family can work there together while we all live in the same house together forever, I'm even more excited when he talks about becoming the first astronaut to go to Mars or a chef who travels around the world selling worm-and-chocolate-chip ice cream and hot dogs with any topping anybody could ever dream of ever. I glean a lot of inspiration from places like Free-Range Kids.

I totally get the part about wanting to shield their hearts and shape their experiences so that they are all pain-free. I sincerely do. If I was forced to cry on cue, I'd just conjure up an image of someone hurting one of my son's little hearts.

But it's not our job to cushion their world, and it's a futile exercise, to boot. All we can really do is promise to love them, no matter what. To promise to be proud of them, even when the Easter basket comes back empty, for getting in the game.


Jen said...

Well said, Sarah. I agree, and yet need to be reminded all too often.

Sarah Hunt said...

Well, as our wise friend Katie always says: progress, not perfection. I think it's probably better to err on the side of loving them too much, all things considered. I'm comfortable being on that side. It's just hard not to tumble down that slippery slope right into crazed, 24-7, full-body-armor, protection mode.

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