Don’t Give Your Children A Hard Life Just To ‘Teach Them A Lesson’
When my daughter was born, one of the first places I took her was to a tattoo shop. Not just because I wanted to tattoo Jesus on a surfboard superimposed on a pot leaf on her upper arm, but because I had promised to bring her in to see my close friend and tattooist when she finally made an appearance. He was a big, burly guy covered in ink and even he got a little soft when confronted with the soft cooing baby-like object I presented him. I wasn’t surprised to hear him say that if he ever had a child he would make sure it struggled. Struggle is good.
I agreed. In fact, we’d talked about it a lot. We had similar backgrounds, and I even found myself saying over and over again when I was pregnant that I would ensure my child would never have an easy life. She would earn everything and take nothing for granted. She would never be blindsided by pain because she would know what it was to struggle.
I changed my mind as soon as I heard her cry for the first time.
This actually isn’t rare among the people that I grew up with. The idea that your child should grow up hardened and tough, but not cynical and jaded. Usually, we change our minds, but every once in awhile I find someone who believes that this is the right thing to do. I don’t blame these people, but I don’t agree with them anymore either.
The idea is that if you teach your child the harsh realities of life you might prepare them for more hardship down the road. One day you will be gone, and they will still be able to cope. They will know empathy and because they struggled early, they will struggle less later. This is something that made a lot of sense to me then, but just doesn’t now.
I understand not wanting your child to grow up to be spoiled and oblivious, but I also think there’s a happy medium. Everyone will experience pain in their lifetime. It’s sad, but it’s inevitable, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want to usher it in sooner than it needed to be here. I had a difficult time of it growing up, but so does everyone, to some extent. It didn’t prepare me for more heartbreak, necessarily. I can be both thankful for the experiences that gave me strength, but mourn the lack of a childhood simultaneously. I don’t want my child to have to mourn that. I want her to experience it and remember it fondly.
I will find other ways to prepare her. I will find other lessons to teach. Forcing her to struggle early to teach her a lesson about how the world can be a crappy place would be a mistake and rob her of the years when it is full of wonder, instead.