I watched a short You Tube video yesterday morning, and it got me thinking. (Warning: I'm about to get on my soapbox and the air is a little thin up here!) The video, which you can see here, is about a family who moved 13 years ago to The Middle of Nowhere, New Zealand, to live in the bush. Although the clip is supposed to be telling you about their lives and their choices, it is oh so clear that the thinly-veiled agenda is to put these unusual people on exhibit for the shock value and "foolishness" of their lifestyle, and to cause the viewers to be appalled that they would force this life on their two kids.
Now, the kids like their life. They make that clear repeatedly. And they do have plans to try living "in villages." But for now, they're content. And they are still kids: ages 16 and 13. Really, should we be encouraging them to leave home and strike out for town just yet? The parents seem to have no problems with the idea that the kids will eventually leave, if they eventually leave.
I'm not going to get into the rightness or wrongness of their decision to live in the bush. What I want to harp on - ahem, write about - is one thing the journalist kept coming back to again and again: the son, age 16, used to want to be a sports player.
See, he used to want to play rugby. But he was obviously never on a team (being that he lived in the bush and all). He said it was impractical. And now he doesn't want to play rugby. He's into trout fishing and possum trapping. Move on. But the journalist can't seem to get over the fact that he can't do the thing he originally wanted to do. That WAS his dream, and dreams, after all, are sacred, right?
Lots of kids want to be sports players when they grow up. Only a few do it professionally. Does that mean that somehow the parents of the kids who don't make it stunted their growth? Didn't encourage them enough? Didn't make their dreams come true? Or could it be that maybe most of the kids are just not talented enough at playing sports to go pro?
GASP! My little Bobby isn't good enough? He can be whatever he wants to be!
Well, no. Not really.
When I was a kid, during the summer Olympics, I decided I wanted to be a gymnast. It was the year that the women's team won the gold, with the one girl landing her vault on a broken ankle. I mean really, how cool is that? But I was in gymnastics when I was little, and I pretty much stunk at it. I was too tall and uncoordinated and unwilling to hurt myself by flinging myself willy-nilly all over that very narrow balance beam. I could do a passable back handspring, and to me, that was acheivement enough.
May I postulate that telling kids that they can do anything and be anything is wrong on a few counts?
1. It wastes their precious time. Why should they believe that if they put in hours and hours of work, it will eventually pay off, when in reality it may not? Note that I am NOT talking about doing something for an alternative reason: to be active and healthy, to establish teamwork skills, for sheer enjoyment. But to do something because you believe it will make you an expert at it when in reality you have no talent for it at all? Waste of time.
2. It degrades the talents they have. By elevating talents they don't have, you're not helping them cultivate the gifts God has given them, gifts which may in fact bring them greater fulfillment because they are ways the child is meant to use his time and energy.
3. It puts too much pressure on the child to succeed.
4. It teaches that to do something simply because you enjoy it, and not to be the best, is somehow not good enough reason. If I love to play piano, I should play piano and worship the Lord through my enjoyment of music, which He made, after all. I should not feel that because I am not the best, or even an excellent piano player, I shouldn't take the time to play.
Of course, this is not to say that striving for excellence is not a worthy pursuit. But telling a child that they can be the best when they simply can't is cruel.
5. Maybe it gives kids too many options. How often do you hear from high schoolers that they just don't know what to do with their lives? Could this be because no one ever helped them discover what they are good at. It's harder to decide what you want to do if it's based purely on what you like to do. But it might be an easier decision if they have spent time in childhood and teenage-hood discovering their gifts, and seeing what they are passionate about AND good at.
Maybe the kid in the video clip would have been a top-notch rugby player. Who knows? But I guess my point is that not every dream will come true, nor should they all.
And also, just because little Bobby wants to do thing A doesn't mean he necessarily should. The dreams of an individual must at times take a backseat to something bigger. In America, we sometimes mistake the right to the pursuit of happiness with the right to happiness itself. So the right to pursue a dream? Sure. If Little Bobby is serious about wanting to play rugby, let him figure out a way to make it work. But the right to rugby lessons, just because he wants them? I don't think so.
Okay, enough nonsense. This post has been written over the span of several days, and I think I forgot what I had originally wanted to say. So don't shoot me. But do let me know what you think!
Because I don't remember what I think anymore. It's been a long week.