I used to believe my ability to make decisions, the careful deliberateness of the whole thing was based on my thoroughness. Not only did I believe this but it was seconded by a close friend and frat brother who felt the same of himself.
During my marriage this deliberateness hasn't always proved to be desirable to my other half. In fact it was the source of much resentment of me by her a few years back. To which I shrugged my shoulders and thought Deal with it.
I realize now that my decision making has had less to do with deliberation and more to do with inability. As a child all of my decisions were made for me, as they should have been outside of maybe choices in candy, some toys and maybe colors of pants. As a teen all of my decisions were made for me, as I'm not do sure they should have been. I have a very loving but a very controlling father who in his desire for me to succeed may have removed from me a critical tool to succeed: the ability to choose.
Choice when applied wisely can be an amazing teacher. Via choice you have the opportunity to learn right from wrong. You have the blessing to make mistakes and learn from them. You have the honor and privilege of knowing you chose right. You can chart a path from point A to point B to point C and so on and so on.
Last year a father of one of my son's teammates told me he allowed his son to join the awful basketball team they were on to teach him a lesson, playing with friends doesn't equal playing successfully. I didn't know any better about the team and as I listened to him I thought to myself How could you allow your son to make what you knew was a bad decision? The more I thought about it the more I realized his pure genius, especially since he had every intention on being around to help guide him toward success.
But you'll never know this if you are never allowed to choose. You'll never taste failure if you're always shielded from it. Or at least that's what many of us in the parenting lane have tricked ourselves into believing. The thing is, failure is a patient beast. If it can't have a piece of you when you're young if will feast on most of you when you are older. When you are young and your mind is open and you have loved ones around, failure can be a great teacher. It can literally fuel success. As are an adult, thinking you know something because you have a degree and not listening to anyone because you are grown and failure can destroy you.
Just follow me on this one.
If one is allowed to make some degree of decisions and should failure be the outcome, if mom and dad or mom or dad are around to shepherd you through that you begin to learn how to navigate the ultimate sea: life. The pain might be a little on the high side as it always is in young minds. But the stakes are low or at least they should be if a parent is around to mitigate the damage.
As adult, or even a child at college the stakes can be maxed out credit cards, unexpected pregnancies, failing out of college, substance abuse, the list goes on. Right from wrong was never learned it was only told. Common sense versus nonsense was never exxplored it was only warned. In fact the urge as the newly set-free young adult is to do everything wrong because you have been kept from it for sooo long. But then the never experienced consequences start rolling in... I was that child and I've been paying for it for decades.
I no longer wonder about the rags to riches stories. I don't believe in the fairy tale and pretty music that television producers play behind the success stories of people who brought themselves up from nothing. What I now know is these people suffered early on, various traumas, shortcoming and maybe even atrocities and learned, for better or worse, how to decide for themselves. Of course success isn't always in the cards. Many stories that begin tragically end just as tragically.
As much as you want to protect your kids from the world, the reality is that you're better off equipping them for it. No one is equipped to do anything living in a bubble. Give your kids a little wiggle room to make choices and quite possibly mistakes while under your care. Only you can decide how much rope to give them but speaking from the other side they will be so much better off for it as adults.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter at @EPayneTheDad.