We expect so much of our kids. We push them. We prod them. We tell them what to do. We punish them—however lightly—when they fall short. What we forget, as we’ve said, is just how hard it is to be a kid. What we lose track of is how impossible our expectations often are for these little humans who lack the decades of life experience we’re absent-mindedly taking for granted.
“Old people are always very impatient with young ones,” Winston Churchill once said in a moment of honesty to his son and daughter-in-law. “Fathers always expect their sons to have their virtues without their faults.”
This was not only achingly true in Churchill’s case with his own father but much less excusably true with Churchill and his own son. Churchill fought with his son over his reckless spending and impulsive decisions. Yet he was just as guilty of those things. He was guilty of putting incredible pressure on his son too—expecting him to continue the family dynasty, as if there was some obvious blueprint for all this. As if Churchill’s own success hadn’t been the result of his own impulsive decisions…and of course, impossibly irreplicable luck.
There is no blueprint. To assume there is, or worse, to pretend to your kids that there is one, is wildly unfair. Can we have expectations for our kids? Yes. Can we try to make sure they don’t fall into the same traps or develop the same vices as us? It would be criminal if we didn’t. But we have to remember that they are like us…for better and for worse. They’ve lived their whole lives in the same house as us. They’ve learned from our examples—even the bad ones…especially the bad ones in many cases. They’re not going to be perfect. They’re going to have our weaknesses…and perhaps some of their own too.