Two of the books I'm reading recently converged on the same topic on parenting. One of the ill-fated legacies in America today is the love of excess and the pursuit of so-called success. When I speak of these terms, I am speaking in the terms your children hear on the television, in school, from friends and from parents.
More is better
Success is measured in dollars
Status is important
Get to the top by any means
Lose weight, look sexier, wear designer clothing, etc.
Our children are bombarded by these messages and sadly we, as parents, sometimes encourage these habits as well.
I remember hearing a story on the news of an 18 year old girl who died following a breast implant surgery, which was a high school graduation present, and the story was focusing on the doctor and if he was at fault.
In my mind, I was thinking "WHO GIVES THEIR DAUGHTER A BREAST IMPLANT SURGERY FOR A GRADUATION PRESENT?" But apparently, this is common in some upper class urban areas?
What we place value on in our own lives, our children will emulate.
When I was in my early 20's, I worked near the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. I drove to work next to Porsche's, Ferrari's and Mercedes all day and all I could think of was the day I would earn enough to have one of those. 15 years later, a car is a mode of transportation, not an extension of my ego or success and the best cars are the ones paid for not costing me $300 per month in car payments.
Now don't get me wrong, if you are making $350,000 per year, a $50,000 car is not such a big deal. But if your spending half of your annual income or more on a vehicle? That's a little excessive. Luxury Fever by Robert H. Frank goes into nauseating detail to the lengths and dollars that American's will go to "look hip" and luxurious.
Money, however, is not the only object we place ill fated value on. The pursuit of Significance and Success is a trap that men fall into at a very early age. We tend to rate our happiness and our families on the amount of income we make, the size of our house, the amount of material things we can provide, and our own career advancement.
What are we teaching our sons?
The goal in life is to get the sexiest wife (with implants), a big house in the "right" suburb, a nice foreign car, and a VP position at XYZ Corporation.
Once you have all this, you will be happy!
Wait no, next on the hierarchy is Significance. This is when money doesn't bring happiness anymore and now we are in it for the accolades and applause, the write-ups in the local paper and academia speaking our name with reverence. Maybe if we get enough attention and press, our own parents, who didn't love us enough, will finally give us the love that we wanted as a child?
I hope you see that I am being facetious. As with all of my presumptions, there is safety in moderation. I also believe that we as parents don't openly tell our kids these messages but they take form in a more subtle and subliminal way.
The greatest clarity of my life and what I hope to pass on to my children is when we and our children realize that we do not need more. We can relax and be happy and get out of societies rat race by simply refusing to play their silly game.
Contentment comes with being happy with who we are and what we have. We excel in our strengths and work on and ask for God's grace with our weaknesses. A person who lives their life with morals, integrity, and character will have a sense of contentment and freedom unlike any other.
Our example will teach our children an important lesson about life's priorities.
But if we as parents don't reconcile our wants and desires with honesty, integrity, and humility; why would our children?
Stephen Covey has is right: "Put First Things First." But even before that, define what "first things" are. Define to our children what is truly important in life and then model that by our actions and words.
I'm done preaching. :)
Listen to Tim's advice