Last weekend, my family and I attended a dinner party hosted by a friend. Her in-laws were visiting from India. After introductions, I made small talk with the father-in-law. He watched me while I made a dinner plate for my daughter. I asked her whether she wanted macaroni or pasta and tomato sauce or a cheese sandwich. As I did this, he said with a matter of fact voice, “Parents are so focused on running around their kids. In India, it wasn’t like this. The kids get what they get.”
I looked up at him not knowing what to say or what explanation to offer him. Part of me believes he just wanted to say it to someone; he wasn’t really looking for a discussion on the matter. I started having a conversation in my head about the validity of his statement.
He is right. There are days when I consider what I do for my daughter and I wonder whether I am setting her up for future failure. She has so many choices. At dinner time, she prefers Indian food, so the nights when we are eating enchiladas or pizza, I make certain that I have Indian food as a back up, just in case she doesn’t prefer the American cuisine. During the summer time, she has a choice of playdates, from going to Dave and Busters for bowling or a craft party playdate at a friend’s house. We live in an insulated environment where birthday and pool parties equipped with goodie bags and sweet treats are the norm.
My husband and I certainly do not remember having a plethora of choices during our childhood. If I did not eat what was on my plate, I was sent to bed. During the summer time, my husband does not remember playdates, but rather his father sending him to read the encyclopedia in the library. And we both did what we were told because questioning are parents wasn’t an option.
In contrast, within reason, we attempt to fulfill our daughter’s expectations. And these are options that my husband and I provide for her. Even though we recognize the pitfalls of this approach,we continue to be active participants. In our defense, there is certainly a tug to want to provide the best for her. But at what cost?
What if, when she gets older, she doesn’t have choices? Will she adjust? Or will she resent us for setting her up with so many options? Obviously I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I am acutely aware of what we do for my daughter and the possible repercussions it may have. Perhaps I was meant to have that exchange with the father-in-law to teach me that I am running too much, driven by her choices. I need to slow down and teach my daughter that sometimes what is in front of you is enough. She knows it too because she repeats what she has learned in school, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” My husband and I have the power to still teach her that philosophy.
We must just make that choice.
Do you feel you do too much for your children? If so, do you think it sets them up for future failure?