The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Parental Dilemma: Encourage Or Protect?
February 27, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I was talking to a colleague of mine about parenthood.

Neither of us are parents, but we had watched a documentary about parents trying to get their pre-schoolers into daycare and were shocked at how competitive it was.

Listening to the parents talk, they were saying the kindergarten their child entered had an implication on what school … university … and ultimately, job, they would have in later life.

Admittedly, the parents were wealthy wannabe’s in Manhattan, but still … it all seemed a bit extreme to me.

Of course, the problem I have is that my frame of reference is my own upbringing.

Pre-school for me was the church down the road … where I got to play with my oldest and dearest friend Paul.

Then infant school was the school around the corner from our house … where I got to play with my oldest and dearest friend Paul.

Then comprehensive school was the school attached to the infant school which was around the corner from our house … where I got to play with my oldest and dearest friend Paul.

And college was the building attached to the comprehensive school, which was attached to the infant school, which was around the corner from our house … where I got to play with my oldest and dearest friend Paul.

And then, instead of going to university, I had a dodgy music career before going into adland and while many would regard that as being lower than a traffic warden, it’s not too bad of a job and I earn a good salary … which lets me go back to England fairly regular where I get to play with my oldest and dearest friend Paul.

Now a lot of this is because my parents actively encouraged me to follow what I was passionate, excited and interested in.

Sure, they would have loved me to go into law or medicine or even the Royal Academy of Music … but they were far more focused on me living a life of fulfilment than contentment.

And only in the last 10 years or so have I realised what an act of love that is.

Despite the risks of a music career [ie: no cash, no achievement, no success] they knew it was something I adored and – having discussed the possibilities and implications with me – backed me wholeheartedly to see where it took me.

And I did OK with it.

Not what I dreamed of happening, but OK.

And even when I went into advertising – a career that was like kryptonite to my Father – they still supported me as despite the high potential for failure, redundancy and low pay, they could see it was something I found interesting, exciting and challenged by all at the same time.

In short, while they never wanted me to have a life of hardship, they also didn’t want me to have a life of regret and for that I am so truly, truly grateful as it set the foundation for me to do and try all manner of things … of which I still have a couple in the pipeline and a hell of a lot in my head.

But that was all 30-40 years ago.

A totally different generation.

Nowadays, competition for employment is even harder.

Academic qualifications are even more important, and yet have seemingly less value.

The arts even more difficult to break into.

And while I would like to think that talent and persistence will still find a way to ‘get through’, I know the sad reality that isn’t always the case.

Which leads me back to the discussion with my colleague.

If we had children, would we support their passion or would we encourage them to follow a path that increases the chances of them being able to live a more comfortable and stable life.

After all, comfort and stability doesn’t mean boring.

It doesn’t even mean it can’t be fulfilling.

But what would we do. Encourage or protect.

I know what I’d like to think I’d do … but I’d love to hear what the parents who check this blog out think about this dilemma.

Is it a dilemma?

Have you worked out what you’re going to do?

Was it something that has challenged you and your values?

Of course, few parents come on here and the ones who do are probably not the sort of parent that would be held up as being a ‘role model’, but if you are and you don’t mind explaining your perspective on this, I’d be fascinated to hear it.

And finally, to my parents, thank you. I always knew you were wonderful but I hold you both in even higher regard, if that is at all possible.

28 Comments so far
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Another excellent post Robert. To answer your question, it is a dilemma we think about everyday. I say “we”, but Mary is very clear the girls should be encouraged to follow their passions, but that unwavering support could be influenced by knowing they want to be (from oldest to youngest) a scientist, a lawyer and an “important person or ballerina”.

Comment by George

So the kids are free to do whatever Mary tells them to do? Like father like daughter.

Comment by Billy Whizz

He has to get permission before he can answer.

Comment by DH

Naughty. But funny. [Sorry George. And Mary]

Comment by Rob

By the way, not all daycare admissions are as ridiculous as the documentary I believe you are referring to. But they can be and we actively chose to avoid them and the parents who frequent them.

Comment by George

Let me get this straight, 2 grown men who don’t have kids we’re talking about children when they’re at school? Away from their parents?

Someone call the police.

Comment by DH

When you put it like that, it does sound dodgy, but it wasn’t … especially as the other guy was the sort of person even the strictest, meanest Father would want their daughter to marry.

Comment by Rob

Bang goes wiedens image of cool.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Bang goes the chance of the comments staying true the post.

Comment by Bazza

That was not an insult, just an observation. Even if it is an observation that could be made every day.

Comment by Bazza

You’d encourage their passions via expensive extra-curricular classes and activities while ensuring they got as many qualifications as possible and then you’d use all your connections to get them jobs. Just like all affluent parents.

Comment by John

He won’t. That would cut into his pointless gadget budget.

Comment by DH

It’s all about who you know, not what you know. And presentational confidence. Hence private educational establishments.

Comment by John

and Rob’s career.

Comment by DH

Funnily enough John, both Jill and I are passionately against private schools so we wouldn’t be doing any of that shit. Mind you, if you look at how we treat our cat, we might be talking utter shit. I really, really hope not.

Comment by Rob

And my reasoning for the above comment is NOT so I can save money for the latest gizmo Dave, thank-you-very-much.

Comment by Rob

Anyone who believes in equality of opportunity should be opposed to private education and private healthcare.

Comment by John

Sadly where healthcare is concerned, I have a private policy … but in my defence, I live in China which not only increases my odds of bad health [as we saw last year] but means I would get ticket number 1,345,546,009 at the doctors and frankly, haven’t got that much time to wait.

But you’re right, I hate the idea of private healthcare and education. I hate the concept of health and education being profit centres, the whole notion of it disturbs me greatly.

Comment by Rob

I’m not judging anyone who subscribes to either.

Comment by John

You should, though that won’t ever be as bad as someone who subscribes to this blog.

Comment by Rob

why the fuck are you talking about this? youre not going to announce youre subjecting the world to some little campbells are you? dont fucking scare me.
my daughter will be encouraged to do whatever she is excited about because she will be the best there is and will make a fortune. thats a fucking fact.

Comment by andy@cynic

The fact you think about this shows why you would be such a good father.

Comment by Lee Hill

If they leave home with a decent moral code, the certain knowledge that they are unreservedly loved, and an awareness that there are many currencies by which to measure success, then I think you’ve done ok as a parent.

Comment by Phil Adams (@Phil_Adams)

That is bloody lovely Phil. I like that and really appreciate you writing it.

Comment by Rob

Most of parenting books are rubbish, there is one thing I take seriously, which is something I try to follow through with team management – kids need to feel loved and they need to feel there are strict boundaries. Both are bound with the other, kids subconsiously appreciate having rules because they know it means they are cared for – but not if the boundaries and rules.
Which brings me to following passions. I think it’s all that matters, as long it’s within the boundaries of common sense. I think that means letting do what the hell they like as long as they truly love it, try their best and never let it ruin their lives forever.
I don’t care what active sport type thing the kids do, as long as they do one for example, my boy can do ballet for all I care.
My girl can play rugby.
I don’t care what they do for a living as long as they try their best, they love it and they don’t do it just for the money – or it becomes clear it will leave them penniless for the rest of their lives.
As it happens, I also think this line of thought applies to grown ups too, doing stuff, even if that’s only one thing, that makes YOU happy makes you a better parent.
I find this subject difficult with a child in agony with a broken elbow, right now he can do ANYTHing he likes, but he reminded me of the need to love something, even if for him that’s an obsession with dinosaurs. He’s getting through it all with his dinosaur books, so determined to draw velociraptors he’s still at all despite it’s harder for him with his dodgy arms as talking sense to a Tea Party Activist.
Why is why getting knocked off my bike on Friday is winding me up, my dodgy neck and broken bike is depriving me of the thing I love the most after family (even more than swimming now)
Which brings me to final answer, even if you’re not lucky enough to follow your primary passion for a living, if you don’t follow your dreams as a hobby, that’s a rather empty life.
Oh, and when you become a parent, you’ll find THEY become your primary passion. It seems to even have tempered Andy.
Sorry,you did ask

Comment by northern

What if they love Queen, Birkenstocks and Nottingham Forest?

In all seriousness, like Phil and the others who kept on topic, I really do appreciate both the openness and warmth of your response.

Quite frankly it’s really lovely to hear, not because I ever doubted the love you would have for your kids [as you said, if changes Andy, it changes everyone], but because [1] this blog doesn’t really like to do serious very often and [2] when it does, I get rewarded with both a better understanding of something I can’t really comprehend and an insight into how the people who come on here really are. And amazingly, they’re awesome.

So thank you.

What I thought may be a paradox doesn’t seem to be one at all when you see the little bundle of love in front of you. Humanity has a chance.

Comment by Rob

Even Queen is forgivable when it comes to my children, even Queen. They’ll judge me for the Smiths one day, perhaps they just might forgive me

Comment by northern

[…] get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of education but as I’ve written many times before [ie: here, here and here] they’ve gone from being a place for learning, debate and discussion, to being […]

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