I may be imagining it but somehow it seems like the stakes in raising children are so much higher than they used to be. My parents were no slackers (in terms of education at least) but my brother and I spent long, languid summers at home, had absolutely no enrichment outside of formal school and certainly never discussed our feelings with anyone. It is debatable whether we turned out “okay” in the long run but you could say that we more or less found our way in the world.
Why is it necessary for me to read that latest book about raising children—especially when theories of child-rearing seem to shift as quickly as the earth in Northern California? Why must I spend so much money on enrichment classes? Why do I feel so much angst about whether my child is at the “right” school or whether I should have tried harder to get her in to that one particular program?
I think sometimes that the urgency of it all takes some of the joy out of parenting. It feels oddly competitive, weirdly Type-A, as if you’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses, the Sakamakis, the Khans and the Adichies.
Since late December I’ve been asked about my plans for my four and five-year-olds’ summer just about every week. And every time I get another note or call, all I feel is … resistance. Of course once summer begins and the class, program or camp is about to start, I will question myself a dozen times: should I have enrolled them, shelled out the money, sucked it up and chauffeured them back and forth for yet another one?
I hear about “the research” every week from my husband. The latest research says this. The latest research says that. I nod and do my best to process what has his drawers in a bunch this time. But somewhere in the back of my head, I wonder.
I think my kids are going to be ok. Better than ok. I think they will flourish. Not because we spent thousands of dollars we didn’t really have to send them to this school or that program. But because we loved them. And we loved each other. We spoke about service and compassion at the dinner table. We told them what they needed to do in order to fulfill their dreams. And we did our best to be happy people, to do the right thing.
I think what will make the biggest difference in the long-run will be the day-to-day intangibles that had nothing to do with how well we networked, how hard we worked our contacts, how much money we spent, and how furiously we drove to and fro.
Or at least I hope.