I once saw a clip from the Ellen Degeneres show posted on The Random Acts of Kindness Facebook page. A woman had written in asking for help to thank another woman who had greatly helped and supported her family over the years. The woman who wrote in – Ry’Shonda – was an amazing woman herself. She was a single mother of four children who had grown up in poor conditions and was trying to give her children a better life. Providing for her children was what drove her life. Her life was measured by their success.
Children coming of age today are at a loss. They are not properly prepared for life. They are driven but do not know how to work. Their eyes are set on entitlement, being taken care of, and the desire for more. More things, more power, more money. They have been raised by helicopter parents or – even more detrimental – the traffic controller parent.
The helicopter parent is a parent who hovers over everything and is overinvolved in their children’s lives. The traffic controller parent directs traffic and sets up detours to ensure that his or her children will not experience the bumps in the road, the breakdowns, or the yellow lights.
This kind of parenting is a disservice to our children. Ultimately, it takes more out of us as well. Our job is not to keep our children happy. As much as we would like our children to live lives with joy, laughter, and free from pain – that is not the reality of the world.
By not preparing and raising our children for the real world, we are making the realities of loss, pain, and mistakes that much more difficult for our children. More essential to their success in life is our ability to let them make mistakes, our willingness to sit with them in pain, and our acceptance that there will be disappointments along the way.
On one episode of Blue Blood (I watched during a visit with my parents), the former mayor approached the police commissioner (Tom Selleck) and asked for a favor on behalf of his teenage daughter who had been picked up by the police for marijuana possession. Her attitude, sense of entitlement, and disrespect led the arresting officer to bring her in.
When the Assistant District Attorney met with the daughter’s father, she shared a personal childhood story. As a youth, she and a friend wanted to go to a party in a neighboring town. They avoided asking their parents and – instead – knowing that the neighbor always left her keys in the ashtray, took her car. The plan backfired when the girls got into a car accident.
The former mayor nodded as the story was being told. He then stated, “I’m sure your father wanted to help you too.” “Yes,” she replied, “which is why he let me learn from my own mistake.” She ended up going to jail and standing before a judge. At his own daughter’s hearing, the mayor ended up doing the same.
Rescuing our children is not how we help them succeed. We best help and prepare our children by filling their toolboxes with a variety of tools. Resiliency. Communication. Compassion. Hard work. Integrity.
I do not watch a lot of television, but my moments with these two shows stirred something within me. May we all have the strength to allow our children to make mistakes, to feel disappointment, and to overcome obstacles. Let our lives be measured by the success of our children – success that they have achieved without our control.