To the anonymous reader who believes I am concerned about my kids’ meeting their potential only because I haven’t met mine, thank you.
Even though it was quickly removed, I had the great pleasure two weeks ago of reading your nasty post telling me how unsuccessful I am, what with this useless clichéd column I write and little else to speak of to impress people as to my worth.
And I’ve been thinking about it. You’re right. That’s just exactly how I feel much of the time. Like a failure. Like even though I have two healthy kids and a nice husband with a good job and a beautiful home and a car and a parenting column and a little freelance work and an arts education organization I am trying to get off the ground and family I mostly speak to and friends I can often gather, it often feels like something is missing. Like I could be doing more with my talents, like I should be doing more, and I just don’t know how.
And that feeling of failure, my own fragile ego, most definitely affects my parenting, you are absolutely right.
It’s like watching the news to confirm your worst fears that the world is a scary and dangerous place. When I’m feeling fragile, every little failing of my children’s can highlight all those many failures of my own that started accumulating from way back when, back from when I was their age. And it can just sock me in the face sometimes.
So thank you for that anonymous reminder of my failures, mostly because it reminded me with gut-wrenching clarity that when we are feeling good about ourselves, we are not so quick to judge others, including our children. It reminded me so clearly how wrong it is to let my own insecurities color my concerns for my kids and what they choose to do in their lives.
It’s funny, success. I live in arguably one of the most successful neighborhoods in the world, surrounded by Oscar winners and top newspaper editors and wealthy entrepreneurs. And I know many of these people, maybe have even had heart-to-hearts with some of them. And I know that their lives are still challenging.
No matter how many statues they have, how fancy their titles, how many countries they’ve visited on their recent tours, how big their paychecks — they still have trouble communicating with their families, they still have to figure how to balance their time between work and home, and they still have to figure how to have some fun.
I am not a nationally known syndicated columnist. My readership is probably fairly paltry, though I purposely never check. I know I haven’t been asked to be on television in a while, and I know my paychecks, when they come, are meager. But (and this is a big “but”), I know that success is not so handily defined, especially by external sources.
My own “success” these days is often a strange metric of the happiness of the residents of my home, including my kids, my husband, my dog Ginger and myself. If my kids are playing happily, my husband is still whistling in the shower, my dog is wagging her tail, and I continue to share thoughts and ideas with others (even when they’re met with vitriol) life can seem pretty good.
I just need reminders sometimes that the little contentments are what it is really all about, the small moments like when you’re woken in the middle of the night by a hand stroking your face and the small voice of a boy next to you who’d been a bit scared going to sleep saying, “Mommy?” and when you say, “Yes?” he says back, “I love you.”