When I envision what life might be like for my children someday, I can’t help but hope that certain experiences won’t pass them by. I realize this might be a parental pipe dream, but there are just those key moments, you know? And I’d hate for any of my kids to miss out: I hope someday they’ll have a job they can’t stand. I hope someone they love will let them down. I hope somehow they’ll experience physical pain. I hope something they’ve given their best effort to will fail.
Jobs are important, I know, and income is necessary. Still, I don’t want my kids to put too much stock in what they do for a living. That’s why, for at least a little while, I hope they’ll work like crazy someplace without getting much money or recognition in return. A job like that would develop humility in them. They’d come to understand that work isn’t everything, that earning money isn’t necessarily enjoyable. They’d identify with the bottom of the working class totem pole, and hopefully it would teach them to care about people.
I want my kids to know love, you see—love to its fullest, most complicated depths. I want them to understand that it doesn’t get handed out as often or as fairly as it should and that it doesn’t always come easily. I also want them to know that it’s sturdy enough to survive disappointment. That’s probably why I hope my kids get their hearts broken a bit, and by people they care about deeply. I hope it’ll help them appreciate that devotion is powerful and delicate. I hope they’ll be softer and more resilient as a result.
This sounds ridiculous, I know—and it is a little ridiculous, because it kills me to sit on the sidelines as my kids go through trials and sadness. It’s horrible to see them hurting. Horrible. Still, I’ve become convinced that they’re better for it in the end. It’s amazing to know they can endure and overcome, and it’s even more amazing to see the person who emerges as a result. When it’s all said and done, the hurt is never for nothing.
So, I hesitate to say it, but I hope that someday my kids will have to experience physical pain. I hope they fall down, scrape a knee, get sick, or sprain something. I hope it hurts enough to make them remember, to make them extra grateful for muscles and bones that are in working order. I hope it makes them stop and feel for a while, giving them compassion for the student in the wheelchair, the grandparent in the nursing home, and the friend with cancer. For the sake of my own nerves, I hope the hurt is just for a while and just a little, but for the sake of their own well-being, I hope someday my kids know what it’s like to be unwell.
And I hope they fail at something. I hope that at least once they try their best and it flops completely. I hope the letdown is a hard lesson, but I hope they learn it well. I hope it teaches them about their weaknesses, but mostly that it compels them to press on even harder the next time.
You see, I want the best for my children. I want them to be people of character and integrity and strength, and those aren’t qualities that just pop up out of nowhere. They’re picked up over time, by walking through muck and mire. So, even though it’s awful for me to watch, sometimes I will have to do just that. I’ll watch my kids endure struggles and hardship and grief, and I’ll do nothing but encourage them to press on. I’ll stand at the end and cheer, ready to leap when it’s over—to celebrate them for learning, loving, feeling, persevering.