Our children grow up questioning, at least the smart ones do. When we as adults don’t have a good answer to the 21 questions every child is contractually obligated to ask every seven minutes, sometimes we resort to the old “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Usually, we’re lying.
That’s the things our kids don’t really understand. They grow up looking up to us, study us, want to be like us — and for what?
Here’s an uncomfortable truth for you: Your kids are better than you, and then the world beats it out of them.
I’m not kidding. They start out eager and earnest. Oh, they might fib if they’re scared, but most of them don’t understand the concept of a lie until they learn it. They’re unfazed by things that would cripple an adult.
For instance, my 4-year-old loves riding his bicycle more than Stalin liked killing Russians. Given a choice, he’d come inside only for short breaks to quench his thirst, then he’d be off again.
It scares the crap out of me. He gets on top of his favorite little hill and then zooms down it like he’s not hitting a pebble the wrong way from learning what road rash is.
As long as he wears his helmet, I’m not going to stop him. For my parenting dollar, I say kids have to learn to suffer. That sounds bad, Jesse. I mean they have to learn how to fall, how to get hurt, and then get back up again.
The thing about getting hurt doing something you love isn’t the physical pain. That goes away, most people understand that. It’s a combination of the loss of confidence and the embarrassment that really gets you down.
It’s not a lesson I had to teach my son, and honestly, I’m kind of amazed. Recently, he fell off his bike, not for the first time, and not for the last — but for the worst thus far. Knees and thighs skinned and bleeding a little, I had to carry him inside to treat his poor battle wounds.
Some cool water, antibiotic ointment and a couple Band-Aids later, he looked like a proper day care war veteran. While applying the ointment, he looked at me with a serious look to his gaze and told me he’d have to go to the hospital so they could cut his leg off. It must have been the worst pain the poor guy had ever suffered, outside of getting me as a dad.
In a selfish way I was kind of relieved. At least now I wouldn’t have to worry about him getting back out on that dang bike for a while. He’d probably be a little gun shy.
That was about the time I heard “dada, I want to go ride my bike.”
Turns out some children, like my son, don’t believe being hurt is any reason to quit doing the thing that hurt them, or in things like confidence lapses.
After I had thought on it for a bit, I came out kind of ashamed. I don’t exactly struggle with confidence, but I remember many times both as an adult and growing up where something would go wrong, and I’d just be done with it, at least for a while. I almost gave up on being a journalist because the first story I wrote stunk. But here my child can suffer the worst physical pain he’s ever felt and be back on the horse five minutes later.
Crap, I realized, my kid is better than me. He’s mentally tougher, he’s braver and a host of other attributes.
My job as a parent is to prepare my children for the world as it is. It can be rough, life can be unfair and sometimes bad things happen for no reason at all. I hope I never teach him in such a way that he loses sight of what makes him an inspiration to me. Maybe, if I pay enough attention, he can teach me a thing or two I wish I had never lost.
It never hurts to learn from your betters, no matter how small they are, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in purchasing a life-sized cutout of Rob Zombie.)