Thursday, 25 October 2012
Potential. One of the joys of having children is that when you look at them, you see unlimited potential. President. Astronaut. NFL starting quarterback. (More often than not, these tend to be similar to the pipe dreams we used to have for ourselves but I'll save that post for a time when I'm not as sleep deprived.) However, no one looks at their children during bath time and sings, "one day you're gonna grow up to be a sadistic dictator, go get it, son!" in iambic pentameter.
What do Mother Theresa and Hitler have in common? Well, they were both born and they both died. So what happened during the dash on their tombstones that allowed one to evolve into good and the other to devolve into evil? How does one navigate the path from innocent, clean-slate newborn to become a tyrant or saint?
I won't pretend to know with Astinus-level accuracy their respective life stories, but I think it is safe to assume that both Mother Theresa and Hitler received love from at least someone growing up, whether it was from a parent, distant relative, friend or authority figure. The same could be said for instruction in basic human morality (at least in the eyes of society's mores and folkways).
So what happened to Hitler? More importantly, what produced Mother Theresa?
Tiger moms, panda dads, absentee parents, helicopter parents...the list can go on and on about parental archetypes that lay psychologists (read: everyone with a blog) praise or blame in retrospect for how a kid turns out. However, it is that very act of retrospection that a seductive quicksand trap of parenthood is revealed: we spend too much time loving the results of our children instead of the children themselves. And in doing so, we focus on parenting instead of being parents. We run around trying to find the latest and greatest programs, slurp up child-rearing theories and argue with fellow young couples about the merits of the Khan Academy, International Baccalaureate programs, ballet lessons, Mandarin classes and everything else under the Hagwon sun.
Do I have the answer as to what makes one a tyrant or a saint? Most certainly not. Like everyone else on earth I was not granted a practice round of life and am flying by the seat of my onesie pants. I do believe, however, that we place too much emphasis on our technique (read: stop feeding your ego) and not enough on the children. They are, after all, individual sentient beings and not pets or clones. They will turn out how they turn out, despite best--or worst--efforts. In no way am I advocating that we all join a hippie commune and let our scions roll around in the grass and let nature take its course. Double decka hecka no. I am going to do my best to not spoil my son, teach him right from wrong and call him out when he starts going down the wrong path too far (I'll let him go a little, so that he can learn from his mistakes). I will also likely dabble here and there in extracurricular programs I seemed to eviscerate earlier in this post.
In the end I just think that we should enjoy being parents. Our children, after all, will grow up too fast, leave the house too fast, and marry too fast (but not have our grandchildren fast enough!). The more time we spend pontificating the less time we will be left with to enjoy the wonders of the human arc.
So will my son become a tyrant or a saint? That will be his choice and only God knows which one he will pick 20 years from now. But what I can promise is that he will navigate that path knowing that I will love him with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind.