These photos show my daughters when they were younger; now, clocking in at eighteen and twenty-one years old, they've both reached milestone adult ages. Somehow, the parenting hasn't gotten easier. When they were little, as you can tell from the photos, I didn't spend any time worrying about how tangled they got their hair or how clean they kept their clothes. Instead, I worried about trying to turn them into good people. The difficulty came in giving them what they wanted at the moment versus trying not to spoil them.
When my older daughter was about eight, I helped to organize a fundraiser for the local daycare. A friend had the amazing idea to offer short hot-air balloon rides to bring in donations. Each ride lasted about ten minutes, and we had a very full list of interested people. I told my daughter that we'd go last, so that everyone else would get a chance to go. Then, one rider before our turn, which my daughter was VERY excited to take, the balloon operators ran out of fuel. No ride but many tears for us. Should I have gotten my daughter on there sooner?
At every birthday/holiday/gift-giving occasion when they were little, I tried to balance what would make them happy with what would be too much. We're lucky to have the first-world, privileged problem of having to think about not spoiling our children. How much is too much? How little is too little?
Our kids no longer play with toys (except electronic ones), but I still have the worry that giving them things now spoils them later. More, I worry about the other ways to balance present happiness/discomfort with the future satisfaction/fulfillment. My older daughter is an extrovert. Staying in during the pandemic hits her harder than it hits the rest of us, all introverts. I feel for her, but when she asks to go visit her friends, who are also stuck in their family homes, I want to chain her ankle to her bed. I think about what would happen if some bad driver hit her car, so she had to go to a hospital filled with Covid-19 patients. I think about what if her friends already have the virus, but haven't shows symptoms yet. My daughter's so eager to see her friends, but how can I let her take that risk? Should I let her be happy now or force to stay in isolation?
I have so many other questions about this crazy parenting thing: Should I push them to work harder in classes now so that they can have better job prospects in the future? How much should we parents force our children into uncomfortable situations in the present to help them learn how to navigate discomfort later? What's the right balance between letting them gain independence through trial and error and trying to funnel them onto paths we know will lead them in better directions?
If you have given these aspects of parenting some thought, I'd love to read your ideas in the comments.