I try not to invite Andy Rooney to speak through me when I write this column. Maybe I’m grumpy because it’s raining. Or because I didn’t get enough coffee, or because I ate too many Reese’s putter butter cups yesterday and am slowly being poisoned by whatever kind of crack they secretly put in there. Whatever the reason, Get Off My Lawn Guy is in the house today, so I’m just going to say it.
Didja ever notice how parents refer to things their kids did as things “we” did? What’s up with that?
You know what I’m talking about here. The most obvious example is when “we” won the game, even though the parental part of that “we” maybe hasn’t run the length of a field or hit a three-pointer since 1986. “We” parents might have coached, written out giant checks, washed disgusting uniforms, and driven the kids all over the earth to practices and tournaments, but “they,” the kids, won the game. They practiced, they trained, they conditioned, they worked, they won.
Here’s another good one – ya know how some parents say “we” have homework? Allow me to advocate for a different pronoun choice here. “They” have homework. Since kids can’t drive, “we” might have to go to Michael’s and get the Styrofoam cubes and purple feathers, but that doesn’t make it “our” project. The homework is theirs and learning is theirs and the results – you guessed it, theirs. Unless “we” re-enroll in school ourselves, “we” never have homework.
Taken to its extreme (thankfully rarely seen here in the Midwest, but I’ve seen it out East), “we” might even get into Harvard. It’s sure gonna be awkward sitting in the same seat together during final exams.
Even in my curmudgeon state, I can see that some of this parental “we”-ing is pretty understandable, not that far off from how "we" win the Superbowl when the Vikings do. It’s great to celebrate achievements and parents do put in a lot of time to help their kids. At the same time though, I’m serious about stopping with the “we.” Our kids’ tasks and triumphs need to be theirs, not ours.
We parents would never think of saying “we” learned to walk when our kids take their first steps. The glow of achievement on toddlers’ faces when they master that skill is one of the best things you could ever hope to see. They worked like crazy, they know they are totally rocking it, and they feel the power! That human drive to make things happen never ends. When “we” take charge of, or take credit for, “their” tasks, we steal all that power away from them. Some kids will fight to get it back; others figure they’re just not good enough to do anything on their own--but either way, we’ve taken something they need at the soul level.
Didja ever notice how parents say, “You did it!” Or, “Why do you think the team won?” Or, “What are you thinking you’ll do to avoid your project becoming stressful this time?” Or, “I admire how you put yourself out there and tried something new.” All of us parents sometimes “we” on our children, but we have equal capability to let their tasks and triumphs be theirs. Just like that toddler joyfully wobbling for the first time, that fully owned accomplishment is what they need, again and again and again.