Race to Nowhere

I finally saw the documentary “Race to Nowhere.” The PTA from Walnut Heights Elementary partnered with our PTA and PTO at Parkmead Elementary to sponsor the film.

[pause]

Did it bring me actual pause? Yes. Was it so seminal that I’m going to change how I parent? I hate to say it, but no.

I know. I know. I sound like such a self-righteous, know-it-all.

“Oh, look at him. He thinks he’s so perfect and has all of the answers. Well, just wait until his kids are older. He’ll see.”

And those last two fictitious sentences are what scare the crap out of me.

The film challenges different groups to act upon certain issues and concerns that are raised in the film, all of which are admirable. Simply from the list of how many challenges the film issues to each group there seems to be a heavy burden on school administrations to change how children are educated today in the US. For me, however, the film was a glaring condemnation of how we perceive our children.

When your children are little, as their personalities begin to unfold in front of you, it’s easy to see in your children what you want to see. The “oh he’s just like…” moments bond us to our children. More than a son having your eyes, you hope your child also inherits whichever traits of yours that you perceive to be the best parts of you.

What’s forgotten in these moments is that these offspring are also their own little people. Yes there’s nature, and nurture, but there’s also the individual person who is your child.

Time and time again, parents appeared on the screen, and the while no one ever said this exactly, it seemed as if few had ever taken the time to understand who their child was until it was too late. Now this is obviously a very callous, snap judgment, and, frankly, it’s something we as adults all do to each other. Our perceptions of others – including family – are rarely exactly what the other person would want or might even imagine. And when the person is one of your offspring, how are you going to really separate yourself from thinking that somewhere within that little person is at least a small part of you?

I’ve often found, however, that the people who I consider the most successful parents – and there are many out there – are the ones who respect their kids, and who at least make an effort to understand who their child is, not who they want their child to be.

I think I’ve done a fairly good job at trying to understand who my sons are, and letting them understand who I am – creating an environment of mutual respect – but I also know that we have yet to cross into that emotionally rich period of puberty. I suspect once we get there, all bets are off, which gets me back to those fictitious sentences I wrote before.

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