Did you know that before they leave home your kids should be able to do a handstand, clean an aquarium, sneeze without sounding ridiculous, and raise or lower horizontal blinds successfully on the first or second try without either side going askew? It’s true, according to Growing Up: A Classic American Childhood by the genius Marilyn Vos Savant. In fact, there are 996 other things they need to know that you may never have thought of, if they are to have had a “classic American childhood,” and her book divides them into categories, like “Cooking with Delight,” “Telephones and Talking,” and “Exercise and Sporting Life.”
I can’t look at the book on the shelf without feeling anxiety. (Especially knowing it’s written by a woman who was in the Guiness book of world records for having the highest IQ.)
To me, “1,000 things they need to know” may as well read “1,000 ways for you to fail your child,” or “1,000 opportunities to fall short as an American Parent.” I read about the importance of knowing how to fix a stuck zipper, or conclude a telephone conversation politely, and begin to panic. My girls are ten! Only eight more years to make absolutely sure they never find themselves ill-equipped for one of life’s fifty gazillion possible situations!
Ridiculous, right? But that’s how I roll. Having helpful books and tools around me doesn’t necessarily make me feel more informed, but often merely more inadequate. All the good and true ideas and practices to choose from, the myriad of things that would be beneficial if only I’d get on the ball and do/teach/use them, quickly metamorphosize into big hairy flat-footed Shoulds. Shoulds that stomp around squashing my optimism and trampling any newly budding feelings of accomplishment.
Know what I mean? Some of you do. The irony is that most likely, if we’re parents who are concerned about how our kids will turn out, and whether we’re doing enough for their health, education and well-being, we’re doing just fine. Really. I’m not just saying that to make us all feel better. I am writing and you are reading a LitWits blog because we believe great books are important, and we want to come up with ways to make that experience more fun, more memorable, and more valuable. Do you see that this in itself is a wonderful gift for our kids, just that we feel this way about books? Whether we are aware of it or not, we talk about our favorite stories with enthusiasm. We have positive things to share about our reading experiences as kids – be they Saturdays spent at the library, books devoured under the covers with a flashlight, or the first time we ever met a favorite author on a page. We speak fondly of special writers, genres, and titles. We leave certain hardbound “friends” lying face up in the bathroom, hoping they’ll be picked up by curious hands. Right? All of this communicates that great books are worth our time and investment – and it’s something you’re all already doing.
That’s all I wanted to say today. That you are doing a great job. You aren’t perfect – none of us are perfect. And neither are our kids. No one is! But you are doing just fine. Keep loving your kids. Keep taking one day at a time, taking those deep breaths, remembering that you are uniquely equipped, just as you are, to prepare your kids for their future like no one else can. And if they leave home without ever having done a proper handstand or organized a closet from top to bottom – even if they’ve never read anything by Robert Louis Stevenson . . . they’re still going to be okay.
What do YOU think? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section, below.