I keep seeing things pop up on social media about how to make sure your child is independent and, after a great deal of thought on the subject, I realize that I don’t really want my children to be independent.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for my babies growing up. Let them tie their own shoes and wipe their own bottoms. I thrill at them taking the initiative to learn something new, all on their own and I sincerely pray that sooner rather than later, once they reach an appropriate age, they feel equipped to go out into the world, find a way to earn a living, contribute to society and generally be productive citizen’s (refer to the tagline, above).
That said, I’m wondering if we Americans aren’t placing way too much emphasis on that word, “independent.”
People will tell you that they “did it on their own.” We are proud to say we’re “standing on our own two feet.” And then there’s the be all and end all of American achievements: “Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”
But is that reality? And if it is reality, is it a good one? Is that the life I want my kids to live?
I look to the people I see and they fall largely into two categories.
There is the group that feel like they’ve done it all on their own, “with no help from anyone.” Many of those people are quick to judge anyone who hasn’t achieved a level of material success at least as high as their own.
“They should just get a job.”
“They need to stop looking for a handout.”
“They’re too lazy to do better.”
“They need to budget more wisely.”
No doubt those things are often true, but if life has taught me anything it’s that, “but by the Grace of God go I.” Women left without husbands, children born to parents who never show them a good example, people who struggle with prolonged physical and mental illnesses, and so many others may be pushed to the fringe and hanging on by a thread by circumstances they never asked for.
I don’t want my children to grow up so “independent” that they have no place in their hearts to foster compassion for those less fortunate than themselves.
And is it really true that anyone “does it all on their own?” I don’t know a single person who has been successful in any sense of the word without significant help and mentorship. Where would they be if those who helped along the way would have turned their back and said, “just get a job! Try harder! Find a way.”
I don’t want my children to be so “independent” that they forget to be grateful for the multitude of people who have helped them along the way.
Then there is the other group – those who are scraping by just to exist. They are lying awake at night wondering how they’re going to keep the water on for another month and crying every morning as they drop their kids off at day care because they have to go to work which provides just about enough money to pay for daycare.
Those are the people who weep with shame when they have to go to the food pantry or the diaper bank. They glance around nervously when they pull out their food stamps card, hoping no one will judge them and say something harsh. They wither a little every time they notice the kids have grown out of their clothes again.
It’s traumatic because they’ve been told it’s shameful to need help. If you can’t do it on your own you’re a moocher, a drain on the system, something less than those who get a bigger pay check.
Never mind if you’re facing huge obstacles and need a temporary reprieve. Forget it if you’re an awesome parent or a gifted artist or an inventor with ideas that could change life as we know it. Society shouldn’t have to support you while you chase castles in the sky. Go flip a burger and be thankful to live in the land of opportunity.
I don’t want my children to be so “independent” that they feel it’s shameful to ask for help.
I pray that my children are strong, that they never take unfair advantage of a person or situation, that they are brave, clever, innovative, hard working, forward-thinking and open-minded. And I pray that my children grow up very conscious of the fact that we, as a species, are, by our very nature, extremely dependent on one another.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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