If you’ve ever watched Netflix’s The Crown, you’ve seen this lesson play out: Queen Elizabeth is strong. She’s stoic. She’s restrained. She’s got a profound sense of duty. And she is continually surprised to see others struggle or fall short of her standards.
Whether it’s her husband, her uncle, her sister, her sons, her daughter-in-law or a prime minister, whether it’s young Elizabeth played by Claire Foy or the more experienced Elizabeth played by Olivia Colman, it’s the same unbridgeable gap in almost every relationship. Why can’t they step up and do it? Why can’t they just get over this? Why don’t they understand?
The answer, of course, is simple: They are not Queen.
The Crown is fictionalized history, but if recent stories about her discussions with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle are even remotely correct, this quality of the fictional Elizabeth seems to bear itself out with the real Elizabeth… still. After all these years, she continues to expect the people in her life to live up to her standards… as impossible and superhuman as they are.
It’s a lesson that every parent needs to learn: Your kids are not you. Your kids are not even like other kids. They are themselves. They have their own limitations, their own needs, their own drives and desires. We must not expect them to be like us. We must not make them feel inferior or flawed for not being able to do what we do—or did at their age. One need only look to history and to therapist offices, both of which are filled with Juniors and Thirds and Fourths who were broken by the impossible standards set by their namesakes, to understand the importance of this advice.
The advice of another ruler, Marcus Aurelius, should guide us instead: “Tolerant with others. Strict with yourself.” Give your kids the benefit of that dictum. It’s not fair to treat them any other way.