What to Want for Them

We have big dreams for our kids. We want them to be more successful than us. We want them to carry on our legacy, to take over the family business. We want them to be the first to go to college in our family. To make it as an athlete or an astronaut. 

We want them to be great. Or do we?

How often are great people good people? How often do they have the kind of lives, in private, within themselves, that we’d actually wish for someone we care about?

Josh Ireland, whose fascinating, must-read book on Winston Churchill and his troubled son Randolph that we have talked about before, has an interesting note in the acknowledgements of the book. “I do not want her to be prime minister, or queen or anything like that,” Ireland says of his young daughter, Ivy. “I only wish for her the sturdy, undramatic happiness that always remained outside of Randolph’s grasp.” 

This, from an author who had plenty of time to contemplate what Winston Churchill’s father’s expectations had done to him…and what Churchill’s expectations had done to his own son, in turn.

Irelan’s hope for his own daughter is well said…and not at all unique, as it turns out. We see sentiments just like this from famous actors, hall of fame football players, billionaire CEOs. Asked about their hopes for their kids following in their footsteps, quite often you’ll hear them say, “God no! Anything but…” acting, football, business, politics, etc. Because they know what it cost them to get to where they were, and they don’t want their kids to have to pay those costs too.

We should all want a better life for our kids. We just have to be careful. Better doesn’t mean more famous, more wealthy, more powerful. Better means happier, means more in touch with themselves and their emotions, it means a life of meaning, it means fulfilling their potential. 

Everything else is extra…and possibly to be avoided.

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