I was a kid in the seventies, and I graduated from high school in the eighties. It was the era of Simon and Atari and the Sony Sports Walkman and boomboxes and floppy discs.
If you wanted to “tape” your favorite song, you sat next to the radio with a tape recorder for an hour waiting for the song to come on, and when it finally did, you pressed the “play” and “record” button at the same time, making as little noise as possible until the song was over.
There weren’t remotes and drive throughs. You had to actually get up off your ass to get shit done. Cell phones weren’t around yet. By the late eighties, the super rich parents of one of your friends might have had a “car phone” as they were called, back in the day. They were huge. Like the size of a shoe box. CD’s weren’t around yet, and neither was email.
I remember someone telling me back then that eventually Blockbuster was going to go out of business because you’d be able to just order a movie right through your television.
What? Order a movie straight from your TV??? Yeah right.
“Modern” conveniences back then made life a little easier, but it was nothing like it is today. Now, everything is convenient. Everything is easy.
While I’m all for things that improve the quality of my life and cut down on the amount of time it will take me to get stuff done, I’m not for the message my kids are now getting that everything is easy. And that everything should be easy.
Along with making everything easy for ourselves, we have slipped into the mindset that we need to make everything easy and convenient for our kids, too. And I’m not just talking about the gadgets. I’m talking about life.
We are turning our kids into big babies. We replace lost things out of our own pockets, drive/fax/scan/email/text forgotten homework assignments to school and order things online and have them shipped overnight. Not only is everything easy, everything is immediate. We don’t even make our kids wait for anything anymore.
We argue with teachers and get grades changed, not because our children have earned the grade, but because blaming someone else for our kids fuck ups is much easier than dealing with them ourselves.
Right back to that easy thing.
We don’t teach our children that if you want to be really good at something, you need to work your ass off. And that sometimes even if you do work your ass off, you won’t succeed. We don’t teach them that there are consequences. We don’t teach them that life is unfair. We don’t teach them that usually, you are not the best at something. We don’t teach them that hard work is good for them, that being physically uncomfortable is healthy, that breaking a sweat won’t kill you but that not breaking a sweat might, that waiting until they are hungry to eat isn’t a punishment, and that they aren’t always awesome.
Rather than teach them these important life lessons, we are turning our kids into big, fat (sometimes literally) babies. We go through drive throughs every day, we purchase apps on top of apps on top of apps and we argue with teachers and point fingers at other people when we really should be pointing them at ourselves.
Instead of teaching our kids the important lesson that you aren’t always the best, or that you can’t always win, at the end of a season rather than help them deal with the disappointment of not being the MVP or the most improved, we create more categories for awards! One category for each kid!
We don’t keep score, we don’t have a winner or a loser, and everyone gets a ribbon, a medal, and a trophy! Because everyone needs a special award!
Your kid does not need a special award. Your kid needs a reality check.
A couple weeks ago, I went to the gym with the kids. I saw a friend of mine who is a hard core runner. She runs like a hundred miles a week. And I’m not exaggerating. She literally runs a hundred miles a week.
We started talking and Number 3 was standing with me and he asked us, “Mom, if you guys had a race, who would win?”
This woman’s marathon pace per mile is at least a minute faster than my time for one mile would be if I ran all out as fast as I could the whole way.
She’s a machine, and she’s way, way, waaaaaay, faster than me. I might as well race Usain Bolt. We both looked at each other like ummm, duh!, and then my friend said, “I would.”
Number 3 was appalled. “That’s so mean!” he said.
It wasn’t mean at all. It was simply the truth.
Sure, we need to teach our kids the difference between being honest and being cocky. And I want my kids to know that just because you aren’t the fastest or the strongest or the smartest, it doesn’t take away your value as a human being. If we tell our kids that someone else is better than them, we are not telling them that they suck. We are not telling them that we don’t care about them. That they aren’t valuable. We are simply stating a fact. Telling them the truth.
And our kids can’t handle the truth.
Because everything has become easy and instantaneous and politically correct and fair.
A couple months ago, someone asked me if Number 2 might be interested in babysitting for them, but that they wouldn’t be able to help out with transportation. I said that was okay, that if he couldn’t get a ride, he could always ride his bike.
“Ride his bike???”
It’s like a three mile ride, and he’s almost sixteen. In two years he’ll be able to drive a tank and use an M16 if he decides he wants to join the military. So I think he can handle a three mile ride on his bicycle. And if he wants to make money badly enough, he will find a way to get there.
Look, I get it. I want to help my kids build their self esteem and feel good about themselves. But you don’t do that by being dishonest with them, and you certainly don’t do that by rewarding every single mediocre thing that they do.
You are very rarely the best. Someone is always going to be prettier or smarter or taller or faster. Someone else will be a better student, a better pitcher, a better swimmer, a better quarterback, a better singer, a better anything.
But there is a difference between being a better runner than someone, and being a better person than someone. There are plenty of superstars who are total assholes.
I’m a competitive person. I’m goal oriented and I’m motivated by trying to be the best. I definitely like to win.
But the things you learn along the way in pursuit of whatever goals you’ve set for yourself are more important than whether or not you meet that goal. Those lessons you learn are the things that give you the tools to become the best version of yourself you can be.
And those things aren’t learned the easy way. While I’d love to brag that I won a race or set a record, what I really want for myself is to know that I’m moving toward being not just the best runner or the best swim coach or the best blogger or the best mother, but the best person I can be.
That’s what is really important. But it can’t be measured against anybody else, and it definitely can’t be measured with a ribbon or a trophy.
And that’s the message I’m trying to give to my kids.