Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Good Pain, Redux

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I was about to launch into today's post but checked my past posts real quick and realized I'd written something similar already: "The Good Pain."  So let me go in a slightly different direction.

INTJs like me can tend to discount pain in their own lives and in others' too.  It may be why I'm a conservative Republican, and it may be influenced by the fact that I am the child of immigrants.  It is certainly a line of thinking that has flavored my understanding of being a Christian and following Jesus, which is that suffering has a purpose.  Whatever the reason, I'm OK with a little discomfort now and then.  It's not something necessarily to avoid and it certainly isn't something to shield your children from.

We live in a culture in which it is unacceptable for kids to be: bored, hurt, stressed, corrected, defeated, endangered, and I could go on but I'll stop there.  Kids have to learn how to deal with these realities, rather than being sheltered from them.  Some off-the-cuff thoughts about each of these:

Bored.  When Jada or Aaron tell me they're bored, I tell them that sometimes life is boring.  I hope they will learn that their boredom does not warrant instant reaction from the world to alleviate their plight. 

Hurt.  I was reading Aaron a book on scabs - yeah, he's into it - and Amy and I started sharing our scab stories from our childhood.  We realized our kids have never gotten any good scabs.  Part of this is that they're not growing up in the suburbs, where they'd skin their knees playing baseball or riding their bikes.  But part of this must be symptomatic of an unprecedented protectedness, whether in the form of foamy playground ground or us helicoptering parents. 

Stressed.  A lot of my friends are stressing about their kids stressing about standardized tests at school.  Since I've been pushing Jada to do well on these tests, I thought it fair to check in with her to see if the tests were stressing her out.  She said yes.  I said, as matter-of-factly as I could, that sometimes life is stressful, and that sometimes stress is good for you.  Of course, there's such a thing as too much stress, especially for a third-grader.  But it's good for Jada to feel what stress is like, and to learn how to excel in spite of and through it.  I intend to be with her on that, rather than to do whatever I can to keep her from it.

Corrected.  Apparently, not correcting kids when they do something wrong is a thing.  I should give this philosophy more of a chance to explain itself, but I don't think I'm ever going to be OK with letting my kids do something wrong and not feel I can't tell them that.  Success isn't avoiding failure, it's learning from it...but only if you actually, y'know, learn from it.

Defeated.  Two years ago, when Aaron was in T-ball, the league didn't keep score.  Something about how playing right was more important than winning and losing.  The funny thing is that the kids themselves either kept score or wanted to.  Winning and losing was important to them.  And it's important in life, too, not just winning but also losing, and more importantly how you handle both.  I sure as heck would rather have some say on how my kids win and lose, while I have some sway over them, rather than keep them from experiencing either until they're out of my nest.

Endangered.  Jada told me she wanted to write a letter to her after-school program about allowing kids to climb trees during free play.  The program's response made complete sense, so I don't begrudge the restriction, but I did lament that we don't let kids do dangerous things on their own.  It's not that I want them to get some of those aforementioned scabs.  It's that I want them to learn how to handle their own bodies and gain control over their own sense of how to keep safe and what is too far.  Performing without the net of your parents has a wonderful consequence of teaching you how to take care of yourself.
I still want to be a safe haven for my kids.  I want to butter them up and see them thrive.  But I also know that life will require some bumps and bruises, some pratfalls and failures, and some dark and painful moments.  To shelter them from these things is to not fully prepare them for the world that awaits them.
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