We all know that what we went through in life is what made us who we are. The breakups, the failures, the losses and the mistakes. Some of us grew up poor. Others grew up rich but with absent parents. Others grew up around addiction or dysfunction.
We didn’t like any of this, but we know it was formative. There is no growth without struggle.
We know this… yet.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath, he talks to several highly successful men and women—Brian Grazer, Gary Cohn, David Boies, etc.—who suffered from dyslexia as children. “Their stories are all the same,” Gladwell writes. “They don’t think they succeeded in spite of their disability. They think they succeeded because of it.” Knowing how formative this struggle was in their lives, knowing that they believed it helped them develop skills and perspective that they would not have otherwise had (and how responsible that was for their success), Gladwell then asked a critical question: Would you want their kids to go through it, too? So they could repeat the benefits?
“Grazer shuddered at the thought,” Gladwell recounts. “Gary Cohn was horrified. David Boies has two boys who are both dyslexic, and watching them grow up in an environment where reading early and well counted for everything nearly broke his heart.”
It’s perfectly logical and illogical at the same time. No parent would ever wish pain or struggle on their children. Ever. Not one ounce of preventable suffering. And yet, we know that suffering in life is inevitable, and in many cases, beneficial. We would die for them. We want nothing bad to ever happen to them. But if someone had done that for us, if someone had removed every bit of adversity from our young lives… we never would have experienced what we experienced and our lives would be so different that our kids would not exist!
Each of us will have to come to terms with this paradox in our own way. But we will fail as parents if we don’t figure out our own way through it. What struggle do we save them from? What struggle do we encourage them to wrestle with? What formative experiences do we accept? Which ones do we fight to prevent?
Only you know. Only you can decide.
P.S. This was originally sent on January 19, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”