Recently my wife and I had a conversation with a lady. She did most of the talking. The topic was children and college. God help us!
It was a beautiful spring day, so I wonder now and regret why I didn’t intervene and change the subject or suggest we play a game like cards, dice or even Russian roulette; anything would have been less painful. LOL.
What was painful about it was that the topic, children and college, is and always will be dominated by the parent with the bigger vision for their child, the bigger, more materialistic worldly vision that is. I’m happy to report that my wife and I don’t qualify for that position. We still think kids should be content to fulfill their goals, not ours. That brings my wife and I contentment, a vital component of health and wellness. Unfortunately, many other parents believe it’s their duty to not only intervene, and not only to control, but to actually make the goals for their children. That worldly way leads to tremendous stress for parents and children.
So this visitor, who I will keep anonymous, spent the afternoon bragging about her children’s potential and how she will guide them in their activities, all designed to qualify them for select colleges.(Her 4 kids were all under 14).
I did try to put in my two cents, explaining that I know many very content people who wouldn’t qualify for what is commonly recognized as success, that being owners of oversized houses, expensive cars, trophy spouses, designer children (i.e. children with the best of everything like expensive orthodontia, manicures, various therapies, and even unnecessary after school extracurricular activities). But the worldly lady kept coming back with “Oh, I checked it out and there are thousands of parents preparing their children for elite schools, there’s a lot of completion out there”.
Now settle down, I’m not criticizing success, especially when it’s acquired ethically, through good old fashioned innovation, creativity and hard work. What I’m saying is that many people, these days more than ever, get all the materialism that accompanies success confused with happiness and contentment.
That’s the worldly way, and working myself in the field of healthcare for over 25 years, I know all too well the trouble that accompanies the overly driven quest for money, and then more money. In fact I wrote a book on the subject called Reclaim the Joy of Practice – An Advanced Guide for Advancing Doctors. The jist of the book is that joy, happiness, and contentment does not come from seeking and making money, or even going to the best schools. You would be amazed how messed up and miserable many people are who you would classify as successful, including doctors.
This worldly way of pursuing success by rigging one’s life or the life of one’s children, produces a very stressful existence because of the very superficial appearance of success and the dead end road it leads to. Yes, the stress in this lady’s family was quite apparent.
So my wife and I have a strategy, we will certainly insist our kids do their homework and fulfill all their school requirements, we will do our best to introduce them to a wide range of experiences and professions, we will encourage higher education, and then we will listen to their choices and be supportive of them. If that strategy leads my kids to a kind of greatness the world recognizes we will celebrate. If it leads my kids to anything else, we will also celebrate their individual greatness – both outcomes are success that really counts because the kids themselves chose and did it, not us parents.
How do you define success? Do you think your definition might be the source of your stress?