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Is Planning for Our Kids’ Future Causing Us to Miss the Present?

Image Source: Heather Neal
Image Source: Heather Neal

Wherever I turn, be it friends, books, social media, or the news, the focus of parents all around me seems to be what we can do for our kids’ future. What are we doing to make our kids smarter, more confident, better at sports, more sympathetic, and so forth?

For every quality and characteristic, there is an actionable item associated with it. If you want your kids to be smart, you need to read to them, put them in music class, and practice math skills and sight words from an early age at home. If you want them to be good at sports, you need to enroll them in physical activities at an early age, run drills with them at home, and consider starting school later if they have a borderline birthday so they can be older and stronger for their grade. If you want them to be confident or sympathetic, do x, y, and z. There’s an answer and list for everything under the sun.

I’m with these parents: I want my kid to be the smartest, brightest, strongest, and happiest he can be.

I’ve been known to make lists of activities that will help him hone his dexterity skills and learn letters, sounds, and words. I’ve questioned whether I ruined his chances of becoming an athlete or musician by not enrolling him in sports and infant classes. I purposely let him fail so he can learn how to do things on his own, and I do my best to phrase everything in the positive instead of letting him hear “no” over and over and over again (although he certainly hears his fair share — I’ve yet to master this strategy).

But for the most part, I’ve decided to just let him be a kid, play, and well — that’s it.

Being there in the small, normal, everyday moments of our kids’ lives could have as great an impact on their future as trying to force and steer specific activities.
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Looking at the big picture, I don’t care if he learns to read before kindergarten or if he can write his name or if he’s going to have two left feet. There’s plenty of time for all of that, and personally, I don’t think focusing on it so early is going to change anything.

While I’ll willingly plead guilty to occasionally tripping over this parenting trap, most of the time I sit back and wonder if we as parents spend so much time trying to make these things happen that we’re accidentally missing out on the present.

Being there in the small, normal, everyday moments of our kids’ lives could have as great an impact on their future as trying to force and steer specific activities, exercises, and behaviors that we’ve methodically planned around their future. Maybe it’s paying attention to those little things that make the difference, not the well-intentioned-but-structured things.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit next to my kid and watch him play with Matchbox cars for the umpteenth hundredth time than waste away that same time coming up with a lesson plan of at-home activities that could better his skills. Maybe paying attention to him — listening, responding, and reacting — is what will teach him how to be confident and sympathetic. Maybe letting him explore, discover, and play on his own is what will help him do better in school down the road.

I don’t have the answers, but I do know I’ll never regret soaking up these tiny mundane moments with him.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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