It’s an interesting thing, going to the gym on a Saturday to run on a treadmill. You are pretty much at the mercy of whatever TV show is on when you happen to go there.
A couple weeks ago, I watched a soundless infomercial and ended up with a vacuum / steam mop that, shockingly, did not fulfill my dreams of a device that could dispose of Cheerios, whole grapes and a pint of spilled Hershey’s syrup in one handy step.
This week, I watched a show that that was possibly even more manipulative: Young Sports Stars of Tomorrow. On this one, you get to see all kinds of teenage sports wunderkinds. All well and good– I love me a good champion story. But guess who takes up more than half the screen time on this show? That’s right, the parents. They’re interviewed about how they produced this prodigy and both the moms and dads have plenty to say.
Just in case you were writing yourself a free pass by thinking, “Well, God didn’t give me much to work with in the sports department, given my kid’s lack of coordination and being in the third percentile on height and all,” along comes the next show, Young Icons. It’s the exact same show, except on this one, the kids are entrepreneurs! And yup, there are the parents again explaining how they raised this superstar.
I tell ya, it took the wind right out of my 4.7-mph-run-pace sails. And really, aren’t we parents bombarded all the time with this? We have Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Training a Tiger: A Father’s Guide to Raising a Winner. A big part of me is saying, “Thanks, man. Thanks for completely wrecking the parenting curve.” But another part of me is staging a massive revolution against the whole “raising a winner” concept. Whenever I get sucked into this dynamic, I have to ask a few questions:
- Raising a winner at what, exactly? Is excelling in this area your child’s dream, or yours?
- Is your child a puppet and you pull the strings? Who owns the credit here, you or your kid?
- Just how involved is your ego here? Is this about you?
- Do you seriously think that it’s your parenting that makes all the difference, and not your kid’s own innate talent, motivation and hard work?
Am I raising winners? I hope not, because children are not rosebushes or prize pumpkins. They are people. What I hope I’m doing is raising children I am proud of. I hope they are pursuing their own dreams, not mine. I hope I’m seeing what they love to do and clearing the path. When they’re conspicuously successful, I hope they own every bit of that success. I want to just stand there and say, “They did that. Good for them!” When success looks like a 4.7-mph run pace instead of winning the Olympics, I hope I am just as proud.
Raising a winner? No thanks. Raising self-directed, authentic, and independent human beings who own their own successes and failures is good enough for me.