Our Kids’ Lives Are Not Ours to Live
Nudging happens, but pushing never should.
Every day I look my daughter and I see nothing but wide open possibility. She has the whole world at her feet. Why am I conflicted with her not grabbing the entire world by the tail? She doesn’t need the whole world, nor does she want it. She just wants to be happy.
I’ve watched her write the beginning of her story of the last 15 years. Her editing process is swift and she does it courageously and unapologetically.
She wanted to go to a different high school to break free from toxic friends. I wasn’t a fan of the idea but we did it anyway.
When she came to me, a medal earning middle school track star, and told me she didn’t want to be part of the best track team in the state but, instead, vie for a varsity position on a horrible softball team, I let her. It was her decision. It was the wrong decision but her life wouldn’t end if she made it.
For me, letting her make those decisions have been the hardest part of raising her. I’m her parachute there to slow her from hitting the ground but I know she’s always going to jump.
I want my daughter to be successful. It’s my job as a parent to show her where opportunities lie. What she does after that is her job. If she doesn’t take them or if she’s not interested, I refuse to push her.
I know she’s felt pressure many times in her life to be the best at something. It crushes her. She’s just not built that way. She doesn’t have to win everything. Her “good enough” is good enough. She’ll do the best she can and end it there. I’m fine with that.
I’m trying to teach her that identifying what makes you happy and knowing what you need to get there is what’s important. Everyone’s needs are totally different. I don’t need to amass a bunch of stuff to build myself a good life. I have a modest but beautiful home that makes me incredibly happy. It’s my financial safety net. I have no desire to upsize to a bigger better home. I don’t need it.
I know people who have worked hard and bought themselves their dream car as a reward for their hard work. I don’t begrudge them that and I don’t judge them for their choice. It’s just not my choice. I feel no need for the newest, shiniest anything.
I drive a 2012 Kia Optima that is very rapidly approaching 150k miles. The leather on the driver’s seat has torn from drying out in 115 degree summers and an exceptionally long commute. The passenger side window needs fixing so I can put it up all the way. There are dings and scratches.
I’ve stopped caring. My car is good enough. I’m driving it until the wheels fall off. Then, I’ll put new wheels on it and give it to my daughter. It seems fitting. This apple did not fall far from its tree.
I feel I’ve come to a point where I can feel okay about my daughter not wanting to grasp for every winning title and every brass ring. She doesn’t have to be the best any anything. Being good enough at it is fine.
When she was little, I saw all the same potential I do today. I wanted to push. Backing down from it has been one of the hardest parts of parenting. My daughter started swimming when she was very little. She was good. When she was 7, she kept up with the 8-year-olds. When she was 9, she gave the 10-year-olds a run for their money.
One of those 10-year-olds is now fighting off colleges that want her to swim for them. This can make a mother’s brain the devil’s playground. I have seconded guessed not pushing her a dozen times. At the end of the day, though, it’s not my life. I can’t relive giving up on my own competitive swimming through my kid. That wasn’t my life and it’s not going to be hers. She didn’t want it.
We all want our kids to be successful. We daydream about them being doctors or lawyers. Getting married and giving us grandkids. Buying that big house and having nice things. We can’t help but want to nudge them in the direction of everything we imagine for them. But those are our dreams.
I want her to find the life that she wants. Our lives are filled with more pressure than we could ever ask for. I wish for her the wisdom to know what’s worth pressing forward for and what’s not worth the effort. It will be the key to her contentment.
I don’t want her to regret a single thing in life but I know that it comes with the territory. She’s seen me miss opportunities and make a bad decision here and there. Hell, this house was one of the best and worst decisions I have ever made. We lived through it. Everything is fine.
What I can pass on to her is that though opportunity doesn’t stay at the door long, it comes back time and time again, just in different forms, selling different things. She’ll know what to buy when the time is right. She’ll be raised to know herself well enough to trust what’s on the other side of her door. She can open it when she feels like it.