January 29, 2008

I'm Always Right...I Think

Last night I was reading a book that my sister gave me for Christmas, What I Know Now – Letters to My Younger Self. It is a compilation of letters from strong, accomplished, powerful women to themselves at whatever age they felt they needed the most guidance. So far, I have found most of these letters very wise and insightful. However, after I read the introduction for Senator Barbara Boxer (D – California) and knowing where she’s from and what she stands for, I immediately thought that there is no shred of wisdom this crackpot can impart to me. I think God heard that thought and said, “wanna bet?” Here is what Senator Boxer had to say…

Dear Barbara,

You’re full of fire. You’re passionate about quality education, safe streets, the environment – all of these things. I know you feel these things in your heart and your feel them strongly, but look, you have to understand that the next person may hold their beliefs with the same amount of passion that you have. Don’t be so judgmental about other people. Don’t be so quick to dismiss another human being. Don’t jump to the conclusion that another person just doesn’t get it or isn’t wise enough just because he doesn’t agree with you.

The name of the game in politics is to move forward an issue you deeply believe in. You’re just starting out and young enough to be impatient when people don’t see your point of view. Stop and listen to what you’re saying: I can’t believe you feel that way! And How could you possible think that way? You’ve shut off the potential to learn from that person you’re talking to and you’ll be less of a person for it. In the end, you’ll lose what matters most – the chance to advance an issue you care about.

There’s something else you may not want to face: It’s easier to be judgmental. It’s less work to see everything in black and white. But every single person is as important as you are and has a story to tell, just like you do. Open up your mind to other points of view – and you may not have to experience how losing an election can take you down a peg or two.

Your staunchest supporter,
Senator Boxer

I have never been so quickly corrected or convicted before. I may have even blushed at my harshness when I finished reading. I generally consider myself to be extremely flexible and open-minded. It was a good reminder to me that that quality is a skill that needs to be practiced and it doesn’t come easy.

January 14, 2008

Heaven, not Harvard

This is an artical my dad gave me to read. I absolutely love what she has to say about the way we push our children today. They only get to be wide-eyed and innocent for so long, why are we trying to take that away from them?

The Joys of Not Competing by Betsy Hart
(Rocky Mountain News - Friday 11/2/07)

I'm not sure when I lost the competitive-parent race. But make no mistake, I lost. Or rather, decided early not to compete.

I'm not sure when it all began. But my kids didn't go to preschool because that seemed rather unnecessary to me, and I wanted them home for those years anyway.

Later my then-second-grade daughter, along with her classmates, was tested as a matter of routine for the "gifted" program, which began in third grade at her public school. I was barely aware of the testing. So I was surprised when I received an e-mail from the teacher to all of the parents, literally begging them to stop barraging her with inquiries about the "cut-off" for the gifted program before she herself had the information.

So, I was more than a little pleased to read "Rush, Little Baby: How the Push for Infant Academics May Actually Be a Waste of Time - or Worse" by Neil Swidey of The Boston Globe. Featured in the recent Sunday Magazine, it was a great profile of parents who push their littlest kids to intellectual extremes. And for what? Several studies released in recent years show that such efforts have no postitve effect on the child's cognitive development. But Swidey says that's just one part of the picture.

Flashcards for babies "might actually be no more extreme than the increasing mania among professional parents to armor their youngsters with every educational enrichment program available...all at the expense of old-fashioned but vitally important unstructured play." I wonder: Just how many parents today would admilt to having a wonderfully average child? Maybe I'm not on that track because of how my parents raised me.

I'm the youngest of five. Yes, there were a few horseback-riding and ballet lessons. But that was about it.

Only, that wasn't "it". Our house was full of books, my mother read to me a lot and pursued an advanced degree and professional success, my father was busy supporting the family, and my parents' friends were interesting and our home was one where ideas were discussed and debated.

My parents' world didn't revolve around me. They wanted their children to become whole people of character. What a difference, I think, from many of thoday's parents who are on the competitive track.

I know that the "competitive parents" love their kids like crazy, too, and want the best for them.

But I also know I want so much more for my kids than a Baby Einstein DVD could give them, even if it worked. When it comes to my children, my ultimate goal for them is heaven, not Harvard. If they go to the latter on their way to heaven, that's great. But if I reverse that equation, I've failed them.