Monday, January 31, 2011

How I Raised a Successful Kid

     Before my son Tyler turned 2, his favorite toys were dump trucks and his tool belt.  He would scurry around the house with his plastic hammer and ask me what he could "fix" for me.  When Tyler wanted me to read to him, it was always the books about construction equipment that he picked out.  He used to sit on the back of the couch that backed against a window of our new house so that he could take in the construction going on in our new neighborhood that was being built around us. Then he would take all of his construction toys and reenact the scenario on our family room floor.  Tyler did this literally every day for years.  His biggest dream in the world was to drive a bobcat, but in the meantime he would talk to me about front loader back hoes and auger drillers.   We had numerous construction themed birthday parties, which worked out great because I didn't have to peel the tool belt off of his body before the big event. As Tyler got older, he graduated to playing with legos- constructing amazing structures with a laser like focus. After that came woodworking and robot building.  Whenever I  needed something to be put together, Tyler was cheerfully on the job.
     You may be asking how he juggled all of this love of construction with piano lessons, soccer, and French club.   Well, he didn't.   After school, Tyler did this thing we've forgotten about here in America called playing.  He actually used his imagination without any direction from me, or anyone else.  Somewhere in our quest for raising the perfect child, we forgot that kids actually learn from playing.  We have scheduled our kids to tightly that they practically need their own assistant to get them ready and keep them organized.   Oops, that job falls to us parents, doesn't it? 
     How did I come upon this highly irregular form of parenting?  I wish I could say it was because I was above wanting my kid to be the best, strongest, fastest, smartest, kindest, most amazing child ever.  But that would be a lie.  What I did actually do though was really listen to Tyler.  Which wasn't really that hard because he was screaming- or throwing some sort of fit.  He would drag his feet and get all cranky and eye rolling on me when I would tell him it was time for baseball practice.  When I would try to take him to some wonderful puppet show performance at the library to broaden his cultural horizons, he would tell me it was dumb.  After a while I got so tired of signing him up for activity after activity, and then having to listen to the kvetching all the way there and back- I just stopped.  Why was I spending money and time to take him to events and classes that he plainly didn't want to go to -  and making myself crazy in the process?  Because "everyone else" was, and you know if you want your kid to get into a good college, they need to have several talents, clubs and sports.  And don't forget about the 14,000 volunteer hours either.  If you don't do it, your kid will end up living in a two-story Dorito bag- poor, unskilled and probably toothless.
     Now I fully realize that everything I've said would distress that "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua terribly, considering that I treat my children as actual individuals with their own thoughts, likes and dislikes -rather than pack animals to be herded about to violin lessons and SAT prep classes for toddlers.  Apparently I should be demanding that my child be first in his class in everything or I should just hang up my uterus and go home.  My area has loads of "Tiger Mothers", and as a former teacher let me tell you something I have noticed about the kids that are raised this way.  These kids cry when they get an A- on a test, because their parents will be very mad at them.  If you ask them a question about what they think about a certain subject, they have a very hard time answering you because they don't know what the "right" answer is.  As if there is one.  Because for these kids, there is always a right answer.  
     Today Tyler is 18, and a freshman at Cal State Chico.  He is studying construction management, the perfect combination of Tyler's favorite things- building stuff, and telling other people what to do.  Preferably with a bull horn, because he also loves the sound of his own voice.  This won't embarrass him if he reads it, he's proud of these traits.  As he should be.  He followed his inner voice that told him to study what he loves, which just so happens to provide lots of opportunity for a very lucrative career.  Tyler comes home with a huge smile on his face every few weeks and tells me how much he loves his new life and the choices he's made.  That, to me, is success.


  1. Love Love Love it!! Tears in my eyes. Thats my Troy. Since 2 he loved Fire Trucks, stations, and chasing fire men in the grocery stores. Well, many years later, my 19 year old son is in college to be nothing other than... a hero... a fire fighter.

  2. Wow!!! loved it. Thanks for sharing.

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