They other day my daughter and I toured around the preschool we hope to place in next December. By then, she’ll be 3 and undoubtedly have changed dramatically from the kid she is now. I had an informal discussion with the kindly director of the school who was very cool and eager to hear about my parenting and “staying at home”. For some reason, I gave a 2 minute diatribe on how I didn’t want my daughter to burn out by the time she was 18. I didn’t want her trying to get into a status college, always reaching for the next supposed “expected achievement”, but rather, to simply have the tools and resources to do whatever she wants in life to be happy. Go to college, travel the world, vote Republican, whatever.
The director seemed delighted I wasn’t some pushy parent intent on ripping up her poor teachers the second they didn’t properly prep my daughter for her Mandarin tutor at age 3. I finally told her I just wanted her to be ready to go to school, have fun and mostly just play. Right answer. She told me she looked forward to seeing us in the fall and that we should continue just doing what we’re doing.
But it got me thinking again on a nagging question: what kind of child do I want to raise and how are my actions and behaviors an influence? My biggest fear is that I somehow over-influence her, my behavior is so boorish and pedestrian that she picks up those bad habits. Do I want a girl who listens to metal and drinks beer out of a can? Think about that one.
Maybe here are three things I would most want for my daughter:
1. To not be afraid to fail, make mistakes but to always try to learn from them. Make mistakes and move on to something else. A mistake or failure doesn’t make you an asshole, but you can become one if you don’t approach it right. Being perfect requires too much work and living with self-disappointment and regret is a heavy load — a much heavier load than getting a C.
2. Having an enough emotional intelligence to know the difference between right and wrong, good people and bad people (and who to hang with) and what kind of mistakes can be made without severe recriminations (see 1). A girl who sends sex messages to her 15-year-old boyfriend because everyone else is doing it does not qualify in this category — but the tidal wave of people who are doing it represent how tough it is to parent this situation.
3. To be curious about people, places and things. Wonder how something works, how people think, live and love and to be able to put yourself in their shoes.
As someone who made it through the terrible two’s, the teens and college, I can look back and see the things that were really important. I understand that teen love is intense and that being accepted is important, but I know drunk driving or sending images of yourself nude around on the internet are the types of things you have to work hard to recover from. I’d rather have a mathalete/choir geek daughter who is shunned than someone who has sex too early or thinks the type of car you own makes you important.
But those wishes too are arrogant. I guess I just have to equip her with the tools to find out who she is (hopefully a mathalete).
In the movies, they sometimes have the hero or heroine face a terrible parent who beat them or abandoned them or was just generally shitty. In every moment, that parent always says, “I did the best I could”. It seems like a cliché but really, what else can you do? All you can do is what you can do.