Today I found myself giving my son a pep talk. My words were the result of my expectations, and I was communicating them in a motivational fashion. It went a little bit like this….. “Son, don’t be allergic to peanuts!! I know you’re too young to understand right now, but your inability to consume peanut butter will put a real strain on this family. We eat peanut butter on toast almost all of the time. I love peanuts son!!! Not the way I love you…. I love you more, but I do love peanuts and peanut butter son, and I need you to not have a peanut allergy. Do you understand???” We were about to give him peanut butter for the 2nd time in his life (which they say is when the allergy will show up). He’s 16 months old.
I’m certain my son didn’t understand the full extent of what I was saying. He’s a pretty smart kid, but not the ‘I know how to talk’ kind of smart. Not yet anyways. He looked at me when I gave the speech, so I know he was listening. I also know that I was holding a cracker at the time of the speech, and he really likes crackers, so I’m not sure if he was focused on Daddy, or simply waiting for me to feed his bottomless pit of a stomach. As I was talking, I felt myself transferring my pressure and anxiety on to his little shoulders. Almost like it was in slow motion, I could feel the disapproving looks of my wife, mother, sister and 3 month old nephew, who were all in the room. Was it too soon? Is he not ready to handle the pressure? Was I wrong?
Parents usually suck at life, and what’s the point of having kids if not to try to make them suck less than we do. We pressure our kids. Whether we mean to or not, we just do. We have to. Somehow if our kids end up not as completely stupid as we all are, then we feel that we’ve redeemed ourselves for our miserably disappointing lives. We can then take FULL credit for their achievements and accomplishments.
I’ve been watching the Olympics a lot this week. What do you notice when you watch the Olympics?? A lot of kids under a lot of pressure. Not only from their parents, but signing up for the Olympics means you get pressure from everybody else’s parents too. Especially if you’re from the same country as them. (The media has the nerve to get on Patrick Chan for not winning a Gold in Figure Skating. He won a Silver, which is awesome, but that’s not good enough for certain rotten cheese doodle eating members of the Canadian Sports Media, but that’s another story). For them to be some of the world’s best athletes, they have to be under pressure. Oh, I know what you’re thinking…. ‘They all put themselves under that pressure because they are so dedicated to their craft’. Sure, that’s probably true, but they learned it somewhere.
It starts at home. It can start when you’re a toddler, and it can start with your father trying to talk you out of having an allergy. Hey, if my son goes to the Olympics someday and ‘puts a lot of pressure on himself to be the best’, I’ll know in my heart of hearts that me pressuring him into not being allergic to peanuts made him a more intense competitor. You can never start too young. Crushing them with your hopes and dreams! They’ll have to endure it later on anyways. You’re not doing them any favors by waiting until they’re 7 or 8 years old.
Now I was going to stop there, and I’m not saying that I don’t trust my readers to know when I’m joking, but……. I’m sort of joking about some of this. Kind of.