Child of mine, I will never do for you that which I know you can do for yourself. I will never rob you of an opportunity to show yourself your ability and talent. I will see you at all times as the capable, effective, powerful creator that you’ve come forth to be. And I will stand back as your most avid cheerleading section. But I will not do for you that which you have intended to do for yourself. Anything you need from me, ask. I’m always here to compliment or assist. I am here to encourage your growth, not to justify my experience through you.
Excerpted from the workshop in Seattle, WA on Sunday, July 4th, 1999 # 529
These are the words I hope I would say to a child of mine; the quote from Abraham today really hits home for me. The idea of personal responsibility, of making our own decisions, is not at all prevalent in this society. Sadly.
I see parents who drive their kids down the street to visit a friend, sparing them the horror of having to walk outside. Only on very rare occasions do we see children playing outside — most are either in front of the television or the computer. Having them there makes parenting much easier for the people of my generation. We don’t want to treat our kids as harshly as our parents treated us. (Still, in my opinion, and it is just my opinion, some of the children getting lost in computers could stand encouragement.)
Many of you are far too young to have played outside — the TV and computer were such adequate baby-sitters. For everyone, but especially for younger people, I recommend a Spike Lee film called Crooklyn. Contrary to the image which the title brings forward, this movie is not about thievery, or gangsters, or organized crime. It is Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical tale of a family with six young kids, growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1970s.
First, the music is wonderful — Mr. Big Stuff, and Love Train, and all of the great soul music of the 1970s, when rhythm and blues tunes still had rhythm and blues in them. But beyond that, the entire story portrays the children of this family playing outside with their friends: stickball, jump rope, kickball, races, talking on the stoop about all of the thousands of things that interest kids around 9- to 11-years old. No parent stood around watching the games, to ensure that their little Johnny wasn’t permanently injured if he didn’t win. Our parents never refereed our games — they sent us outside so they could have peace and quiet inside.
I would guess, if there is such a creature, any child who wanted to play outside would be warned and sun-screened and reminded that he or she could not possibly lose at anything. Give me a break!
Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, children will need to take responsibility for their actions, and for the results of their actions. In fact, not only children, but everyone could stand a touch of self-discipline, and I have no intention of excluding myself from the list.
My life has proven no noble story, just because I played outside with my friends. In fact, a young psychiatrist would tell clients that I was the reason to protect their children. I am so screwed up, even those of you reading me may think it best staying away from my advice. That’s fine. At least, I know how to interact with others; I’m not afraid of new people; and I am constantly aware of the amount of exercise I should be getting. And I love being outside: Bugs, and dirt, and more dirt, and scraped knees, and chapped lips. I am not interested in cracking any whips, but parents, a chance exists that you are raising people who will not know how to take care of themselves. Wouldn’t you rather raise strong, capable people who can get along in the world?
If I was a parent, I would.