One of my grandkids is crazy about insects.* Another loves dinosaurs. That pretty much guarantees that we’ll have an entomologist and a paleontologist in the family, right?
Of course not.
Kids grow and change, their focus shifts, and the thing they love when they’re five or six is almost certain to be ancient history at ten or twelve. In fact, that’s one of the best things about being a kid—actually, about life in general. We get to try everything, like everything, and then find something new to like. The list of possibilities is almost endless, so it’s natural to sample from a wide array of options as we grow.
The simple truth is that none of us is smart enough to predict the future. And yet, so many parents with more money than common sense are working feverishly to secure the best possible outcome for their preschoolers.
The same people who couldn’t predict Covid, couldn’t plan for their own retirements, couldn’t anticipate the last rainstorm…think they can plot out all the steps for their kids to thrive. What school should they attend? What classes should they take? What careers should they target? Somehow, an awfully large number of parents think they have the answers.
Most of these people, btw, selected a college major that they didn’t know existed when they were in high school and ended up in careers that had nothing to do with their college major. Their lives took all kinds of turns along the way before some random detour became their main path. Despite their own experience, though, they absolutely know for a certainty that they can plot the future for the next generation.
They’re wrong, of course. None of us knows what the future will bring, none of us knows what life will throw at our kids, and none of us can predict what, ultimately, will make them successful. Heck, we probably cannot predict how they will come to define success itself. What industries will thrive 30 years from now? Will social skills be valued or mocked? Will we all be speaking Mandarin, or Urdu, or some digital language that hasn’t been invented yet?
One of the great things about being a grandparent is not having to deal with this stuff. I’d hate to be hearing from strangers who need to condemn me for destroying my children’s futures. It must be terrible to go to the park with the kids and start pushing them on the swings, only to be told we’re doing it wrong or saying the wrong things while we’re doing it or that we shouldn’t be doing it at all. It was great to be a parent in the old days, when you could ruin your kids’ lives in private without anyone calling you out about it.
There is some consolation, though, at least in the form of schadenfreude. Just as no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no parenting plan survives contact with children. Helpless babies turn into stubborn toddlers and rebellious teens and, one day, independent adults. The only real guarantee here is that the plan will not be realized.
The old adage is that man plans and God laughs. I suspect that all these overly earnest parents make Him laugh the hardest.
*Between the time I started writing this post and today, dinosaurs have avoided extinction, but insects are already a thing of the past. Sic transit gloria mundi.
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.