Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Reality Check

Let's face it: being a grown-up isn't always fun. In fact, it's rarely fun...we find our moments of fun in-between all of the other stuff we have to do, like cooking dinner and doing the laundry and going to work. There's no question that being a kid is a much better deal.

So why, then, when I ask my four-year-old to do a simple task like setting the table, does she freak out, stomp her feet and throw the cutlery on the floor?

Children are, by nature, ego-centric. They can't fathom that the world doesn't revolve around them, their wants and their needs. But the fact is, it doesn't. And life is full of little disappointments.

Our kids today have everything, from Gymboree classes to the latest toys and brand-name clothes. My kids are no exception. Like any middle-class parent—and like our parents before us—my husband and I wanted to give our kids more than we had. To smooth the path for them and pave an easy road into adulthood.

But where does it stop? What happens when our kids realize they are actually NOT the centre of the universe? That, in fact, there's a whole wide world out there that may embrace their presence—but could also do just fine without them?

This issue of confidence and self-worth: it's a sticky one. Too much of it, and you'll get spoiled, entitled kids who mistakenly believe the world exists solely to do their bidding. Too little, and you'll wind up with kids who are too delicate and fragile to cope with life's challenges and move past them.

My four-year-old is bossy, opinionated, outspoken and entirely self-assured. So I worry about the first time she hears the words, "I don't like you" or "I don't want to play with you." I worry what will happen to her self-esteem when she's told, "That's just not good enough."
I worry about how to teach my girls how to stand up for themselves—to be proud of their accomplishments and who they are—without feeling that they are owed something for simply existing. And I don't know how to explain that mistakes and disappointments are an inevitable part of life so they'll need to learn to handle them gracefully, whether they like it or not.

I know I can't shield my kids forever, however much I might want to, and that it's my job to explain these things. But they aren't life lessons that I want to teach. Truthfully, I've barely learned them myself.

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