As a parent I’m proud of my kids and their accomplishments.
I’ve got the medals and the chest to prove it – literally.
In our basement, there’s a chest that’s bulging with every art class drawing, report card, unit test, medal of achievement, every certificate, team ribbon, participation parchment and group trophy from our kids’ endeavors to date.
They’ve accomplished a lot and I’m proud of that.
I brag about them. I’m a dad, that’s my job.
But should it be that way? Do they deserve that praise?
That’s when I started thinking about the hoopla over the recent “You’re Not Special” speech delivered by high school English teacher David McCullough, Jr. to graduates at Wellesley High School last week.
I’ve linked to his speech below, but the entire 12 minute address can be summed up in the final :30 seconds where he says the following:
“…the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life then come only with the recognition that you’re not special – because everyone is….”
There was a national outcry against and resonance for this teacher who had the audacity to speak the truth – simply and clearly.
I agreed with virtually every point McCullough eloquently made.
But then I ran into my internal buzzsaw of intellectual honesty again – curse you cognitive dissonance!
The problem I have with what McCullough said is that as a parent, I really and deeply WANT my children to be special. I want them to excel at everything and have everything they put their hand to prosper.
While that might be a tad unrealistic for every parent, it’s certainly not unexpected for a parent to feel that way.
What McCoullough reminded me of was the fact that my kids are more than a portfolio of papers; skein of skills and collection of accomplishments. That’s not why I love them.
I love them for who they are, not for what they do.
That’s the real job of the parent – to love on our kids, not merely brag on them.
Question: Do we do too much or too little worrying about the self-esteem of kids in this country?