What is the real message we should be sending the younger generations today? With all the wealth of our accumulated knowledge it surely can’t be along the lines of, “It’s a big world out there. Go out and make your way, find your place, and be the best that you can be. This is your time. Carpe Diem. Seize the day!”
We’ve all heard ‘the speech,’ that speech, or variations of it on our last day of school, our last day of secondary education, or on that most important day of our lives... graduation day, when we blithely wander from the safe, nurturing, arms of academia, into the workplace. Or so we think. The reality is... that... unless we are blessed with teachers who will share the realities of what lies ahead, we are doomed to a no-mans-land of broken promises, shattered dreams, disappearing hopes, and unreachable stars.
I say we, but no that’s not right is it? It is you, and we are responsible. We put the you into youth, and have made you feel that you are the important one in your future, and that family, community, society, and humanity are all consequent upon you being you, and being the best you, that you can be... and it’s all a load of old tosh!
Trying to ‘find oneself’ is only for the feelgood romantic comedies that have made Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds and numerous others squillions, and made you laugh or smile as you twitch awkwardly in your seats as you recognize, again that you are failing... again, to be that person of your dreams, and where did that time go? Where did that childhood, that youth, that energy go? What happened to your twenties, thirties, forties, and more go?
OMG, you’re a failure... you haven’t made that first million, got the big house, the flash car, the trophy wife and 2.4 kids! And what about your wife... look across the dinner table and tell me she is happy. A trophy? No, she’s too busy cooking, cleaning, feeding and caring for the 2.4 kids, and you thought your dreams had gone... What of hers? Trophy husband... nah, look in the mirror big guy! Big house... nah, bog standard, and getting smaller by the day. Flash car... nah, any car would be nice, and the 2.4 kids just drain her dreams away...
Of course, I’m being cynical, but there is a point to it. If my years have taught me little else, it is surely that you must all aspire to be the best you can be, but the awkward reality is that if you try to be ourselves too much, you will spend most of your lives as a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Becoming yourself, and making the most of all the gifts God gave you is not what your life’s objective should be. Your objectives must be smarter.
So, our parenting must be smarter. We must not cocoon our children in a fantasy existence where everything is nice and good and wholesome and sweet and good things will come to us if we are good people, coz it’s just not going to happen so easily. Send the message that sweat and work are the answers instead, with dollops of reality, frustration , and disappointment, all hurdles to be negotiated.
Your children must know that rewards come not in toys, phones or cars, but in Mum and Dad’s time, after all, that’s what they really want. They must know that school is a place for learning that prepares them for a half-life of academic rigor and requirement that can set them up for what lies ahead. Be honest with them about what lies ahead if they hide from teachers, don’t do homework, and don’t ask or answer questions. Make them... no, help them understand that this half-life is only the beginning of learning.
Help them not from the lofty heights of parental hierarchy. Come on down, and prepare them for a life in which, notwithstanding faith, darker forces threaten their hopes and dreams. Finding your way is real life Snakes and Ladders.