My wife just gave birth to our first child, a beautiful little girl named Ellington Rose Neighbors. I took a few weeks off after the delivery to help my wife recover and spend time with Ellington and it was wonderful. During that time I spent a lot of sleepless nights thinking about how I want to raise her and how not to screw her up. One thing that got stuck in my mind was this idea how most of America tells their kids “You can be anything you want to be”. This sounds so warm and fuzzy, but I think this is creating a culture of kids that don’t know how to work hard at something when it’s no longer fun, but would rather get paid to play or do something they enjoy. I want Ellington to use her brain, overcome difficult challenges, and have integrity in whatever she does.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with following your dreams. Many of us have gifts that should be part of what we do for a living, but there is beauty in putting in a hard day’s work and as a society I think we have lost a bit of that. Today kids get the easiest degree they can while partying and then spend years waiting on an elusive dream job as a recording artist, professional athlete or narwhal trainer. I am impressed with some other cultures that direct their kids into careers and studies that make a difference in today’s workforce. Getting an easy or fun degree is not an option for these kids as there is pressure from the family to do something that will set them up for success. While this can go too far, ultimately I believe it is the parent’s job to set their offspring on the right path.
No one is honest with their kids anymore and it’s easy to see in our culture. All you need to do is watch the first few episodes of any American Idol season to see what I mean. I want to be honest with Ellington and tell her what she is good at and what she isn’t. Today we give our children 12th place medals and participation ribbons and never let them learn what it feels like to lose, this sets them up for failure. Losing and overcoming that feeling is where we learn and ultimately become stronger. As a culture we need to stop sheltering our kids from the real world and what it takes to win, it weakens them and creates a delusional sense of entitlement, rather we need to talk to them about their goals and be there to encourage them when they fall down on the way.
I ran across a company called Goldieblox that encourages little girls to explore engineering and I love that idea. We need more women in these types of roles and I would be thrilled if Ellington decided to get an Engineering or Computer Science degree so she can create things and triumph in a field that greatly needs more women.