All parents strive to spend their lives providing the best for their children. It is a natural course of parenthood that compels us to give our children more than what we had growing up and ensure that their world is an overflowing hill of opportunity at all times. This new generation of parents, more than ever before, initiates children to the endless pool of advancement and works very hard to expose their children to all things worldly and otherwise in the hopes of giving them an advantage in life. Children are playing things like travel t-ball at the age of 4, enrolling in after pre-school activities that range from ballet to painting with pastels, playing instruments at 2 and being taught to read before they can even speak well. All of this and more in the name of providing the best for our children. But, is that truly what we are doing and who really decides what the best’ is?
If you consider the facts that more children spend their days in daycares and in the hands of babysitters and nannies than they do their own parents and that ‘school’ starts at the ripe age of 2 now (long before most kids are even potty trained) you will be forced to take pause and think about what it really means to provide the best for your children. Consider that divorce among married couples with children are screeching to all time highs, more people are losing their homes in foreclosure and more children each year are diagnosed with behavioral disorders than ever before. Consider that depression among moms and dad is reaching epidemic proportions and that there is more suburban drug use in middle income homes than ever before. Teenage pregnancy and drop out rates are not declining nor are statistics on criminal activity among children from the ages of 10-18! Millions of children are being medicated, teachers and school administrators are dealing with violence in schools on a daily basis, most two-income families are credit card millionaires living paycheck to paycheck and the average mom and dad spent less than 20 waking hours with their children during the course of a week. DFACS agencies are seeing higher incidences of child abuse and neglect and the amount of children in foster care is steadily rising each year.
What all of this says is that perhaps ‘the best’ parents are striving to provide for their children may not be the ‘best’ that families as a whole need to be successful and happy. Who gets to decide what the best is for our children and where did all this pressure to give children things in lieu of love and attention come from? Does it really matter if your child shows up in designer clothes to preschool or has a room full of the ‘best’ toys and gadgets money can buy if they are never home to enjoy them? Is the big house in the best neighborhood really a home if the walls never echo with peace, laughter or togetherness? Are the SUV’s and trips to’ Disney World replacing things like discipline and familial values? Are you truly a parent if you leave all the trials and tribulations of raising children in the hands of strangers? Most importantly, who made you think for one minute that what your children really need in life, especially early on, is something that can be bought and paid for like groceries? Perhaps all they really need is you and what you have to offer them and a little time playing in a mud puddle together without worrying about ruining $80 shoes and a $100 outfit they will grow out of in a few months anyways.
According to statistics like these, it seems that the greater majority of parents are missing the point. When we are in the midst of the struggle of providing the best for our children it is difficult to see the world of disconnect we are often creating. It is commonplace to feel guilty for out lack of time together and make up for it in the way of gifts and things. It is even more natural to want, desire, and covet things in our world to make us comfortable and happy! However, it seems that paying for them is ultimately being left up to our children. There are plenty of parents who claim that this is a competitive world we live in and that the only way their children are going to get ahead and have a fruitful life is if they are thrown into the harsh realities of life as early as possible. Isn’t it a parent’s job to keep children safe and secure? Isn’t it a parent’s job to keep them innocent and to cater to their belief that this world is a wonderful place? If we don’t do that, than we are setting them up for a life in which they will be forever cautious and scared, insecure and untrusting that their real needs will ever be met.
There are many kids unable to tie their brand named shoes who have become adept social butterflies and manipulators of people and circumstance. Is this something that any parent should be proud of? Obviously, financial responsibilities drive our desires to work and earn money and many couples claim they could not get along with one income. Providing the best for our children is not about being a stay at home parent, it is about being an aware and always present parent and about allowing children to be children and ensuring that above all else, they feel loved by the foundation of family before they go out on their own in life. When children come from a home that is full of love, patience, discipline and respect, they always have a place to come back to in their mind and will forever be blessed with having the best life has to offer. When children come from a home that is full of stuff, yet empty in the spirit of family, they have little to lean on in life. These children will grow up spending a lifetime trying to get, have, collect and acquire the ‘best’ in life and always feel empty. Then, the cycle continues.
Providing the best for our children is definitely the goal. Nevertheless, parents should be reinforced with the idea that the best for their children always starts with them and is not reflected in the things they own or do; it is reflected in the joy that the family offers one another and the content feeling that stems from being happy together, rather than from all the other things in life!