Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Parental Manifesto: Part I

Living in Marin means eventually the local mother's group book club would get around to reading "The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids"

Ah! A book about troubled teens in affluent environments (affluent is defined as $120k per year, which places us comfortably below that designation). I will read because he will be around such affluence. Perhaps, it will make us feel better that we are not so affluent. I will read it and let you know. I am not sure if it is counseling against parental over involvement or under involvement. Although it does seem to have something to say about materialism and pressuring kids to achieve a certain standard. It will be interesting because I grew up in Menlo Park, California which is sandwiched between many affluent communities of Atherton, Woodside, Palo Alto, and Los Altos. I grew up with kids whose parents would take off for Europe and elsewhere leaving them free to host kegger parties at their fine homes.

I want my son to find the best fit for him. If he wants to be a firefighter, I couldn't be prouder. I would be *thrilled* if he ended up a general contractor because this house totally needs one. Good general contractors, plumbers, electricians make a good honest living off folks like me who have none of those skill sets. The trick is that they have the skills to work for themselves and hire and manage others, so when he gets to a certain age he can direct others to do the work he is too old to do. At the ripe age of three, he wants to be a doctor (he wants to "help people when they are sick"). As he gets older, he may want to be a surf instructor in Hawaii, political activist in San Francisco, or a stay-at-home dad -- ’s all good if that is what he has a passion and talent for.

I want him to go to college, but only when he is ready to go. I want him to be able to travel and work in the world so he understands and appreciates a college education can do for him.
The benefit of education should be to open the world to children on all the various occupations we can strive for. We cannot all be engineers or businessmen. We need artists, scientists, teachers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, stay-at-home fathers, writers, public servants, and all sorts of thankless jobs. We cannot all serve commerce and run a functional or compassionate society.

Our job is to let our son know that there are consequences in doing bad things, so our child will be a good social being. There is a time and place for gratification and sacrifice. Things do not make us happy, but being kind, being together, and having a sense of humor does bring happiness. Learning, reading, and being inquisitive is what we do. If we do something, we do it well. If parenting is anything at all it is a transmission of values, and passing down enough resources to give our children the ability to live those values. Do we pass down the whole materialist human habitrail or do we give him the tools to live in the world comfortably while living responsibly?

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