It’s assumed we want the best for our kids right? We want the best for our kids, and we want our kids to be the best. Also, we want our kids to be better than we are or better than we have done. My parents were pharmacists, and they wanted me to be a doctor. Not just for the positive aspects of the career, mainly the salary, but because they did believe I was smart and capable of doing more than what they had accomplished. My parents also grew up in a time when success was symbolized through your profession, your back account, the size of your house, and the stuff you had. Now, success means something very different for my generation.
Success can look very different between people as well. For the first couple of years of parenthood, success to me meant that my girls would hear my requests – orders and ultimatums – to pick up their toys, clean up their messes, and get ready for school and do them right away. I wouldn’t have to ask them 3-1000 times in 5 minutes while reminding them they are late for school.
Success to my wife was very different. Success to her meant training them to make good decisions, be good people, do their best in everything they do, and learn to follow God’s call in their lives. When I am having a temper tantrum over the girls not listening to me, my wife will ask me what my goals for them are. I am usually dumfounded and don’t have an answer, partially because I am thinking, “They should know by the way I am yelling at them,” and partially because, “Oh yeah, they’re kids, who need to be molded and formed” so I should take it easy.
So I am trying to not be an a…jerk to my kids and be nicer to them. I am doing a better job of expressing my belief in them, encouraging them to do their best and keep trying to get better. The end-goal is they become successful people, whatever that means to them. We can’t all be doctors, lawyers, CEOs, or professional athletes, but it doesn’t mean we are not successful. We just need to decide what that means.
So what does success in my kids look like to me? What it looks like to me is probably a lot different than what it looks like to my kids. When I came home yesterday, the girls had paint out, their hands were covered in paint, front and back, and the paint mat was almost solid blue. My first thought, “Disaster! Let’s start the clean up crew and deploy the hazmat team!” To my wife, who was on a conference call in her office, was probably thinking, “Great! They are occupied until Charlie comes home.” To my kids, “Paint! More paint!” In fact, they might have even seen it as a failure because they really only used one color, and the mat wasn’t completely covered in paint.
For the first year and a half or so of life, successful parenthood looks like kids that are still alive. Excluding non-facetious conditions of alive that break my heart (cancer, birth defects, etc), I felt like it was a real accomplishment that my daughter made it to her first year of life under my supervision. This is considering that on a regular basis the first year my wife and I were married, on my days off and she was at work she would come home and find me with a headache. She would ask me if I ate lunch or drank any water that day, and I would frequently say, “No.” Not surprisingly, she would look at me puzzled. I would stare back at her puzzled as to why she was puzzled. Also, when my oldest was transitioning to eating food instead of just milk, I would often not do it because I didn’t like the mess. She still drank milk, I just didn’t give her food because it was inconvenient to me.
There is also all the paranoia parents have anytime their kids sneeze, or fall, or have a fever. Because of my science education and job in the cancer testing industry, and my paranoia, my mind starts reeling anytime my kids get sick and I start to think the worst.
Then there are the things that make you put your parenting skills into question, or make you think you are a negligent parent. “How on earth could this happen?!?” was uttered and thought by me the time the girls got lice from school or the time my oldest needed to get crowns for her rotten teeth before she was 6. The only thing that made me feel like a successful parent that time was that I had a job that offered dental coverage. The lice eventually went away by washing with medicated shampoo, and she got crowns, started flossing every morning, and now she has what she calls Robo Teeth (her crowns). With my wife being the voice of reason, we all survived.
However, there are things that do make my wife and I feel like successful parents. I was totally judging another parent in my head when I heard a mom walk up to the child care person at church and say, “My son is 3 and is newly potty trained…” In my head, I thought, “Three?! A little late, dontcha think?” Both our girls were potty trained by their second birthdays. #AsianParenting. (Church is a great place to judge people, by the way. A lot of damaged people to judge, myself included.)
Another benefit to Asian parenting is the emphasis on doing well in school. We started teaching my oldest to read before she started kindergarten, and it turns out she likes school, for now. My youngest one takes more after me and doesn’t like to do work, but she does like learning and also seems to like school. We’ll work on keeping that going for as long as we can.
These are the things that look like success from mine and my wife’s perspective. Success to my kids is probably a little different. They like learning how to read, count, and write and feel successful when they do it, I’m sure. Especially when we tell them it’s crazy to watch them learn how to do these things. In fact, we tell them to stop learning because we don’t want them to grow up. They keep learning, though.
But success to them probably doesn’t involve learning. It might include accomplishing things, but that could also apply to climbing up the counters to get to the cupboard where the candy is, which also happens. I often walk into the kitchen and find my youngest either starting to swing her leg up onto the counter, or her standing on the counter looking for something to eat. Same kid, granted when she was 6 months to 1-and-a-half, that was scared when riding elevators. Now she’s climbing up counters to get food, or opening up refrigerator doors to do the same. Part of the success is getting up there. The other part of the success probably includes me letting her have whatever she was looking for since she is already there.
Other forms of success may or may not include the following: going shopping with grandma or grandpa to get a toy without having to open their own wallets, getting mom or dad to read an extra story before bed, mom or dad (mostly dad/me) sneaking them an extra piece of candy, scoop of ice cream, or soda to share, getting me to take them to the park in 100 degree weather and stand in the sun to push them on the swings forrrrrreeeeeeevvvvveeeerrrrrrr, or getting me to go on roller coasters or spinning rides at Legoland or Disneyland. The Legoland rides are not too bad. I am definitely too out of shape to do any rides at Knott’s Berry Farm or Magic Mountain.
One other exhibit of success from the parents’ perspective is building positive characteristics in our girls. For example, persistence is a characteristic we want our kids to have, and it is starting to sink in. My oldest has started to play goalie this hockey season, and it has been challenging for her, understandably. She is six, still learning how to skate a little while playing hockey, and her equipment weighs half of her body weight. So her first actual game was rough, for her to play and for me to watch. I was a stress ball. Coming off the rink and the car ride home, she seemed fine until she got home. She got really upset and broke down. Fortunately, mom was there for her and talked to about her own crushing defeats playing sports. It was tough to lose by a lot, but because of persistence she worked hard and got better. It made my daughter feel better, and she was able to laugh off the loss and continues to play goalie. And when my youngest turned to her older sister in the car the next day and said, “Sissy, don’t give up being a goalie. It’s against our family rules,” it was clear we are having some success planting seeds of character.
Success is very different for everyone. And even though my kids have a different view of success than I do, I think, even at a very young age, they are successful. Keeping in mind they are still kids, which I forget a lot, they are quickly becoming actual people. You can see their personalities coming out. My oldest is a thrill-seeker and is willing to try new things even though she is extremely shy even around people she knows. My youngest is stubborn like her parent (hmmm, which one?), but can be so sweet to her sister. When she had pink eye we had to tell her to not get too close to her sister. She started crying because she was worried she was going to give pink eye to her sister. They are sisters and friends who love playing together, and that is enough of a success story for me.
What do successful kids look like to you? What do you think you kids think success looks like? What are you doing to help your kids be successful? What are your success stories?
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