I posted on Strollerderby yesterday about Amy Chua’s cub getting into Harvard, and why my kids won’t be following in her footsteps. The bottom line is that I don’t have Harvard ambitions for my kids. As I said in my SD post:
I don’t lack the willpower to drive them toward excellence. I just have different standards of excellence. I care more about health and happiness than I do about wealth, power or fame. This seems to be a point Amy Chua is missing in her Tiger Mom manifesto: She thinks “Chinese mothers” are superior because they push their kids to succeed and get results, but some of us “Western parents” really don’t care about those results. I don’t need to see my kid play at Carnegie Hall or get accepted to Harvard. I just want them to be happy.
I guess that makes me a satisficer rather than a perfectionist as a parent. I’m pretty OK with that. Turns out, that might be the best anyone can really do. A new book called Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids, by economist Bryan Caplan, argues that all this intensive parenting doesn’t change outcomes very much anyway. Whether we shuttle the kids to ballet class or park them in front of the tube, they’ll grow how they want to grow.
I’m a bigger believer in nurture than Caplan is, but I think he has a point: micromanaging kids is an investment that won’t pay off. Our kids are more than the sum of our parenting efforts; they’re people in their own right.
It got me thinking, though, what do I want for my children? I may not be as ambitious as Ms. Chua, but I realized I do have a mental “bucket list” of things I’d like my kids to have by the time they hit adulthood. It’s a work in progress, but I’m pretty sure I’d like my kids to have:
- Safety from violence
- A good education
- A love of reading
- The ability to swim
- Ditto riding a bike
- A driver’s license
- Healthy diet and exercise habits
- Basic musical skills
- The ability to manage their finances
- Healthy attitudes about sex
- Happy childhood memories
- The courage to chase dreams
- Rock solid self esteem
What else should go on my list? What’s on yours? What do you consider essential to teach your children before they fly the nest?