If you asked my kids what phrases I use most, one of them would definitely be, “I don’t raise spoiled boys!” I use it all of the time.
I am rooted in the Midwest, and it’s hard not to sound like a Garrison Keillor knock-off when I talk about it, but it definitely informs my world-view. In Minnesota, wearing your wealth or status like a sign is frowned upon. We prefer to think that we’re all equally humble in life’s hard and cold journey.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but not too much. It’s important to me that I do not raise children who are entitled or jaded by life.
I didn’t really realize how much that philosophy was ingrained in me until I was an adult and moved to Chicago. I was so thrilled to move to the big city, and I was buzzing with the excitement and possibility that the world held for me. I was engaged and had my own studio apartment near downtown. I worked in the Loop, and I was in love. I was in love with Aaron, my very own place and the way that my life was taking shape.
We went out for drinks one night at the top of the Hancock building. As I sat there in my fancy dress, drinking a fancy cocktail out of a fancy glass, and I looked out and saw the lights thread out for miles, I had a thought that hit me like a bolt.
I was incredibly grateful to my parents.
I was so happy that I was able to earn these things on my own, and I was thrilled that it was so fun for me. I truly felt that the way they raised me had left this amazing new adult world open. I realized that the end of my childhood did not mean the end of wonder or the end of discovery.
As an adult I had a wealth of new experiences that were still before me. I could almost see them thread themselves out just like the lights on the grid below. It was a giddy sense of youth, but it was also a mindset that was given to me by my parents.
I knew that not everyone felt this way. Several of the clients with whom I worked did not exactly radiate a sense of gratitude. Unfortunately, many of them had a sense of entitlement. They presented themselves in a way that made it clear that they were used to a certain way of life. They had grown up with money and luxuries and were shocked, frustrated or just outright pissed when the world didn’t lay itself out like a red carpet in front of them.
What I found myself wondering was what did they have left? What joys were left for them to discover? What sense of wonder do you bring to the everyday when you have already experienced so much? Truthfully, I felt sorry for them. I have carried these memories into parenthood.
My boys make fun of me when I marvel at the sunrise out our front window in the morning. Nate has said to me, “Mom … you think everything is great.”
They mock the way that I inhale every time we round the hilltop in View Ridge and see snow-capped mountains and water. “At the same time!” (I yell that part every time. Now, they yell it along with me.) I am constantly saying how lucky they are to have this view as a common occurrence in their lives.
We stop and just listen to the lyrics in a great song. We talk about the beauty of having a great friend to share things with. We stand in a ray of sun and take it in. I am always trying to remind them of the beauty of small and everyday things. They can make fun, but it is all a part of my plan.
I want to be sure that they will always maintain a sense of wonder. I don’t want to give them the world right now. I want them to learn how to enjoy the small things and understand that you have to grow up and work for the big things. If you are able to enjoy the everyday of life, your adult time on this planet is so much easier. I believe that a sense of wonder and joy is an integral part of an adult’s ability to function well on this planet.
I hope to give that to my boys. I might sound like a broken record, but that’s OK with me. As long as it’s a soundtrack they can live with.
Stephanie Olson is a mother of two boys who lives and writes in Seattle. She believes her golden rule in parenting “Just wipe it off on your pants!” will be her epitaph someday. It has gotten us through pretty well thus far! Read more of Stephanie's work on her blog, Ma Swell Vie.