Forced March

So the other day I came down the stairs of my house only to find my daughter playing video games on her computer.  I am not a big fan of video games; in fact I hate them so much I feel as if my children are being deprived of a bonding experience by my refusal to play them.  I am not unduly restrictive and will let my children play them within reason.  However, when I came down the stairs and saw my daughter playing a video game instead of concentrating on an essay to get into the high school of her choice, I sort of blew a gasket.  This was especially because she told me just a little while earlier, that she couldn’t come out on a run/ride with me, because she had to work on her report.    

I told her that if she has time to play a video game, she definitely has time to ride her bike with me while I run.  She started to howl in protest that she just needed a little break, so I replied fine, you can take your break with a little exercise.  I made her get dressed and ushered her out the door with her crocodile tears still running down her cheeks. 

I didn’t tell her where we were going to ride, but I set out in the direction of Green-Wood Cemetery.  I wondered how long it would take before she figured out that I was going to take her to visit her grandfather.  She didn’t say a word during the entire ride/run over there and insisted on riding behind me the entire time.  I really didn’t care, as long as I could keep her insight.  Along the way I tried to figure out what I would say to her when we arrived at my father’s eternal resting place.

Dad rests in a brass urn that is enclosed behind glass in one of the mausoleums at the cemetery.  The room has a nice comfy bench right before his niche.  My daughter and I sat down before it and were quiet for a moment or two before I began to talk to her.  She mentioned how she missed her grandpa and started to cry.  I replied how I missed him too and was still upset with him for passing away.

I took the opportunity of her mentioning grandpa to tell her that my father would never have let me get away with playing video games when I had an important school project to work on.  He would have taken the game away faster than I would have been able to blink my eyes.  I then went on to tell her that if she wants to succeed in this life she is going to have to be better than everyone else.  There is too much competition in the world.  Everyone is after the same thing and only the stronger, smarter and more willing will be able to get it.  I continued to wax philosophical about how every subsequent generation in our family line, in fact of most generations of Americans, are better off than the previous generation.  However, my fear is that this won’t continue to be true except for those who have a commitment to excel in life that is greater than everyone else’s.

My little speech then moved onto how a strong mind is supported by a strong body and vice versa.  I explained to her the importance of exercise in leading a healthy and happy life and how I feared that she didn’t get enough of it.  I told her to look around at all the people that she knows who are in bad shape and poor health.  This was mostly because these people that we know didn’t take care of their bodies and are now paying the price by having ailments and other disabilities; including her grandpa who has the ultimate disability of being dead.

We continued talking for a while, or really, I continued talking about life in general and my daughter nodded her head in understanding.  She didn’t say much, but I hoped that I got through to her on some level.  I worry that she doesn’t have any real interests or pursue any activities.  She is like her mother in this way, which makes it hard to figure out what to talk about.  A person needs to be well rounded with interests and pursuits in order to be able to converse.  I wish we talked more; it’s just that I struggle to find a common ground with her.

After my little pep-talk, we continued our run/ride around the cemetery.  I wanted to go around Prospect Park as well, but I gave her the choice of extending our trip or heading directly home at the intersection where we would have to decide on the direction.  I hoped she would want to continue on, but she said she was hungry, so I left it at that and took her home.  We will just have to see if the seeds I planted take root and I’ll have to make sure I water them regularly.


1 Trixie (not work safe) { 11.28.10 at 10:51 am }

I don’t know. A lot of my problems are from believing for too long that “if she wants to succeed in this life she is going to have to be better than everyone else.” Approaching everything in life as though it’s a competition and everybody is a potential adversary may not be the way to succeed. If she doesn’t already have that drive to be THE BEST (which is kind of a neurosis anyway that dooms most people to feeling like miserable failures), maybe “success” for her looks and feels different from what you think of and enjoy as success. I don’t think it’s true that everybody is after the same thing, and if it were, I don’t think it’s true that the people who wind up getting it do so based solely on merit.

You’re kind of hardcore, dude. If “bonding” means being told you’re not good enough by someone you love then choosing to play video games for a break she might genuinely have needed makes sense.

I know it’s none of my business and I know next-to-nothing about you and your family, so this is really just a personal response from my own experiences and trying to get over that kind of brainwashing myself in order to be happy. I went to college after high school mostly because my dad wanted me to but it wasn’t really the right choice for me. On the other hand, YES I am better off than previous generations of people in my family.

Anyway, good luck! I’m sure your talk with her sank in and the time spent with you was valuable, I just felt compelled to offer a different perspective (which perhaps you’ve already thought of and simply oppose with every fiber of your being).

2 BrooklynBeast { 11.28.10 at 11:16 am }

You make some valid points and I will keep them in mind when I talk with my daughter again. I may be hardcore, but I never push my children more than they are willing or want to do.

Everyone should have some sort of drive, at least in regards to things that interest them. Not to have a drive to pursue one’s own interests is a waste of our god-given talent. I just want my children to be the best and happiest they can be.

3 Your fav stalker { 12.08.10 at 8:29 pm }

I met a bartender who had 2 degrees. He said he became a bartender to piss off his dad. I think he said he is in his late 20′s or early 30′s now. Anyway, he is thinking of a new career, maybe teaching Maths or English or something like that. And he says he has been happy bartending despite being over-qualified for it.
There is nothing wrong with pushing your kid to live up to his or her potential as long as you also stress that they do not have to follow the school-job-marriage thing that society insist they do.
Basically, insist they work hard and play hard. Life is too short to be too serious.