Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The 26th of September.

Mitch turned six months old.  His personality is beginning to bust at the seams.  More and more, I can see that he is the strong, silent type. He quietly observes his crazy brothers.  He is a momma's boy, and his adorable, wide, piercing eyes follow me around the room.  I could go on and on about his nuances, about the future I see for him, the person I believe he will be, but lately, I cannot decide if I should.  Perhaps, he should just figure it out for himself, without my heavy influences.  Probably, what I write at this point anyway, is no more accurate than the horoscope written from the day he was born:

LIBRA: People born specifically on the 26th of September are predicted to be very competitive and highly creative along with the typical Libra gifts of expressive charm and diplomacy. The ruling astrological planet for this particular day is Saturn making you rather insightful, intuitive and persuasive. If you have this birthday your strong willed tenacious nature is likely to possess intense powers of concentration and really thrive under pressure. Your demand of excellence from yourself often extends to others but your zodiacal symbol of the scales ordinarily gives you a balanced perspective on and of everything around you. Easygoing and calm on the outside you are also incredibly determined and shrewd on the inside. Individuals with a September the twenty sixth birthday are naturally friendly and witty in addition to being especially good at compromise. You are as a rule inclined to be fairly self disciplined, sympathetic and helpful but you can be known to have quite lazy, indecisive moments too. 

As I was looking through my Instagram feed and found that my cousin's daughter (or, as some may call it, my 1st cousin once removed) had "liked" 18 of my photographs, it suddenly dawned on me - my children will be able to read one day.  Not only will they be able to read, but eventually, they too, will have smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any number of social media and devices.  In fact, I would venture to guess that in 2 short years, Brock will have the capability to find and read the exact words I am writing right now.  Crap.  What are the implications of what I write!?  Generally, most my articles are funny little stories or loving observations which are entirely objective. But significantly inter-mixed is a lot of subjective prognosticating, predictions, generalizations, stereotypes and perhaps some prescience.  It's these things that suddenly concern me. I have put each of my sons in a box. Already.  Everyday, I am writing their horoscope.

I don't think I am the only one.  In fact, I know I am not the only one. It's just that I have evidence in the form of a very active blog.  Every mom I talk to labels their child in some way.  Every grandparent does it. Aunt, Uncle, friend. "She's so sweet."  "He's a jock."  "She loves babies."  "He's going to be an engineer."  It begins before the child is even born.  It kid of begins before they are even conceived. I am sure there are extensive studies on this topic and the implications of what you tell your kid.  In fact, I remember reading some viral blog link that mentions the detriment of always telling your kid he's smart.  In this article, it mentions that if you tell them something like that, they turn away from anything challenging or difficult because they have come to believe if it doesn't come easily to them, then it's not worth their time. They never learn to enjoy a challenge, or work hard.  If that's true, then you can imagine that the opposite would happen. Meaning, if you only tell your kid they are smart, they may not venture into things they otherwise might, regardless of the ease.  Their mindset may turn into, "I'm smart, so sports, art, music, aren't for me."  They may never expand their horizons and venture off the beaten path to discover, that, alas, my parents had no idea what they where talking about!  I may be great in school, but I LOVE to garden.  It's my true passion, talent, gift.

Of all the fears I have as a parent, about how I am possibly scarring my child for life, my biggest is that I might squelch a fire I didn't even know existed.  Being such a passionate, competitive person myself, someone who always wanted to not only do the best, but be the best, at whatever I do, I assume my kids will be the same to some degree.  Life, to me, only exists with dreams, goals and aspirations.  When I recognize a specific talent in each one of those boys, it will be really hard for me to not push them to use it. It's hard for me, already, to not label them.  Show them the way of ease and success.  Identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Explain to them how to use their respective personalities for societal and personal advancement.  But, this way of thinking, living, being is what makes me happy.  It's me.  And ultimately, all I want, is for them to be happy.  Because, when it comes down to it, that is absolutely the ONLY thing that matters in life.  This is not just my opinion, the fifth item listed on the the 5 regrets of the dying states: "I wish that I had let myself be happier."  (And perhaps, even more appropriate to this post, is #1: "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.")  Am I unwittingly, forcing a life on all four of my children that they may not desire?

Then, I thought about my own childhood.  I was an intelligent kid.  Teachers regularly told me as well as my parents, that I was "smart".  I got identified and put into some Duke University screening for the gifted.  I received an award for getting a perfect score on these little math quizzes that put me in the top 3% in the state of Missouri. I read books and did crosswords during class, instead of paying attention.  I received my first B, ever, in high school, in an honors class, that I only allowed myself to get, because at St. Teresa's, in an "honors" class a B equaled an A on the point system (therefore, still a 4.0).  In all honesty, when asked why I became a doctor, the reply I want to give, is, "Because I was told I could, and that I would be good at it."  But, that response is no fun, doesn't get you into Med school or residency and is only partly true. What is left out of that response is how I came to actually embrace what was being expected of me, and until recently, when I stumbled across an article about "Why using your gifts is heroic",  I could never fully explain it myself.  Basically, it's true.  I became a doctor because I was told I could and should, because I am smart, because the sciences come easily, because I enjoy the perception of success, but, ultimately, I became a doctor because I wanted to share my gift.  What's the point of selfishly harboring a gift like that to yourself.  My brain allows me to help hundreds, even thousands of people on a daily basis.  Knowing, not only that I can do this, but am, in turn, makes me highly satisfied in life, and happy. 

Would I have become a doctor if my parents, teachers and peers hadn't identified my strengths and personality early on?  I doubt it.  Do I think that I would have been happy with whatever lot in life I chose? Probably.  So, in conclusion, will I continue to describe, label, guide and assess my children?  Definitely.  But, I will work on exposing them to everything.  Embracing their passions.  I will try not to pressure them to be who I think they should be, and let them express themselves as they deem fit.  And though I will probably still write posts about them, I hope they, and everyone else, understands that these are merely fun, intuitive observations, that are somewhat factual, but not meant for any practical use. Mostly, I will let just them be.  At least, I'll try to anyway. 

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