It occurred to me today that I should add something new to my children’s diets: dreams.
This suggestion did not come from my pediatrician, or Dr. Oz, or some celebrity chef who would likely scrutinize my sometimes questionable lunchbox choices on days when I hit the snooze button too many times or on mornings before the weekly grocery shopping trip. In this case, my unlikely nutritionists go by the names of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Wait, not Young. No, yes Young. Let me check….yes, & Young.
“Teach Your Children.” I have heard the song more times than I can count, mostly thanks to my father and his almost pristine taste in music. So when I heard it on the radio today, it should not have been any different from the thousands of other times. But then those voices in silken harmony began their sage advice: “Teach your children well. Their father’s hell did slowly go by. And feed them on your dreams…” BAM!
It was as if I had heard those words, “and feed them on your dreams,” for the very first time. I apparently had never been listening before. But now I was. And all I could think was how beautiful that statement was. How poetic. How decadent in imagery. How representative of the generation of peace and love. How…wise and oddly practical. It was the best parenting advice I have heard in a long time. And it came from hippies.
Parenting is a competitive sport these days. We train prior to the big event. We scout experts and other parents, researching new approaches to the game. We are constantly adding pages to our playbook. We scrutinize every move we make. When we fail, we analyze where we went wrong; when we are victorious, we are awarded the right to brag about our “natural” skills and our abilities to outplay our children. And we are all working toward the same championship prize: for our well-rounded, intelligent, successful child to smoothly transition into a well-rounded, intelligent, successful adult.
That is what I have been told anyway. By whom? Pretty much the entire world, that’s who. Everyone has an opinion on parenting, and we are constantly bombarded by “experts” telling us how we should parent, how we should not parent, how much we should parent, all the things we are doing wrong as parents, and so on and so on. Are you a Tiger Mom? Are you a helicopter parent? Would you be a better parent if you were French? Is my child overweight because there are toys in Happy Meals? Are Disney princesses warping my daughter’s brain?
I am starting to think we are so busy reading about how to be parents that we forget to actually parent. Just pin that parenting tip on your Pinterest board labeled “Kid Stuff” and that’s all you need to do, right?
I am certainly guilty of all of this. I can be a bit of an over-analyzer when it comes to just about anything, my own parenting skills included. This is compounded by the fact that as a high school teacher, I was exposed to teenage behaviors on all points of the spectrum, thereby contributing to an irrational fear that every time I screw up in the parenting arena I have most definitely set my children on the path leading to the defiant, disrespectful, morally corrupt section of that spectrum. Maybe I should hover a little closer. No wait, maybe I should stop catering to my children’s needs like French parents. Or maybe I need to just nip this in the bud right now, pull out some Tiger Mom moves, and start calling my kids “garbage” until they start acting correctly.
Or maybe I just listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and feed them on my dreams.
My dreams for my children are pretty simple. Love and happiness. Sure, I want my children to do well in school. Sure, I want them to have ambition and drive. Sure, I want them to be successful in life. Would it hurt if they ended up making nice, hefty livings for themselves so they could one day hook up their old crotchety parents with a sweet retirement timeshare in Florida? No, it would not. But deep down, I truly believe that everything I want for my children, everything I dream for them stems from love and happiness. If I feed them love and happiness everyday, that will nourish their spirits, their confidence, their minds, their hearts. It will grow them into beautiful people, and beautiful people do great things.
I know, I know…it sounds a little hippie dippie. But it is not as if I am never going to yell at my kids again, or tell them little white lies, or take away toys, or hold them accountable for their actions. I am still going to do all that. Maybe now I will just start trusting that the kind of parent I am is exactly the kind of parent I need to be, and that losing my cool after asking my children to stop using the couch as a trampoline for the twenty-fourth time is okay as long as it is accompanied by a large helping of love and happiness. Just like it is okay to have a Happy Meal every now and again, accompanied by a usually balanced diet. (That’s right crazy society, there ARE parents who do not need you take toys out of fast food meals. Some of us can make educated decisions all on our own. Shocking, I know.)
And because any view on parenting would not be complete without a healthy dialogue from many perspectives, I am curious: what ingredients go into YOUR dream meals for your children? Or maybe you think this whole dream diet is just another fad? Or maybe you think I am plain crazy for taking parenting advice from hippies?
Or maybe you find it ridiculous that I just wrote a parenting blog post about how we over-analyze parenting?