The beginning of Netflix’s rendition of The Little Prince begins with a mother unveiling her child’s life plan to ensure admission to the “right school.” She tells her daughter, “Let’s face it. You’re going to be all alone out there. So we can’t afford to make any more mistakes. You’re going to be a wonderful grown-up.”
While it’s certainly an over-the-top portrayal, when we think about all the societal pressures to ensure our kids’ success, it’s more representative than it might initially seem.
I remember a day a few years back when I was feeling like a particular failure as a parent. I decided to make a list of all the things that were stressing me. In so doing, I realized that it wasn’t so much the daily to-do list itself that was weighing me down; it was the fear of what would happen if I failed at any given item on the list (ie, make sure the kids get quality outdoor play each day OR ELSE they might not develop proper health habits and someday contract heart disease; make sure the house stays clean OR ELSE they might grow up to be hoarders featured on some reality-tv show, etc, etc).
Dire consequences were attached to every task. And it came down to me to prevent every one of those consequences.
As I continued my list, I came to the essential realization: I had thought my actions were driven by love; turns out they were actually driven by fear.
At first, it may seem that what’s driving the action is irrelevant, as long as the results are the same. But upon closer inspection, we realize what happens in a fear-driven environment:
- We focus less on others’ agency and more on control.
- We don’t share the load, even with people who have an interest in it.
- We trust less.
- We worry more.
- We stress over timetables & milestones.
- We are exhausted.
As I have instead worked to start from a place of love, I have found that I focus more and more on the agency of those around me. Because only when I stop worrying about whether I’m enough can I more clearly realize see their strength. Their capacity. Their courage.
This quote from William Stixrud resonated with me so much that this is my second time sharing it in as many weeks:
“I start with the assumption that kids have a brain in their head and they want their lives to work. They want to do well. That’s why we want to change the energy, so the energy is coming from the kid seeking help from us rather than us trying to boss the kid, sending the message, “You can’t do this on your own.””
When we’re driven by fear, the burden rests with us to prevent calamity and shape the world.
When we’re driven by love, the burden rests with us all in an open, thoughtfully-discussed, and shared manner.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto