Glass Half Full: Don’t waste being a kid |

Glass Half Full: Don’t waste being a kid

Recently I was chatting with a family about their now-grown children. As is true of most families, the two boys in question were remarkably different, though their physical appearance clearly marked them as brothers.

One of them breezed through school and his younger years easily. In fact, he was rarely challenged; things came effortlessly to him.

The other was a bit more typical, in the sense that his parents had to help keep him on track every now and then.

In the course of his elementary and high school career, he ran into “trouble” periodically. Nothing spectacular, but he created enough waves to rock his own and his family’s boats on occasion.

As parents, we like our children to behave. We want them to be successful as students and people and not to have to confront too much adversity. Sometimes, we want to protect them too much.

It was not until college that the roles reversed. It was as a young adult that Son #1 was met with situations for which he discovered he was not prepared.

He was plenty smart, in an academic sense, but he had never had to work very hard. Socially adept during his younger years, he’d also never been confronted by situations with peers that required him to make significant personal decisions.

While his younger brother pushed boundaries occasionally, the firstborn rebelled not even a whit. Until he reached college, where he found both the need and the opportunity to establish an identity and to stretch some limits.

Son #1’s choices, initially, seemed disastrous. His stellar academic record took a dive, and there was one memorable night when his parents had to retrieve him from the police station because of the company he was keeping.

The family is still not quite sure who was shaken more during that period, parents or young man. Fortunately, both he and they recovered.

What became evident to all four, however, was that the younger son, the one for whom life was a bit more difficult early on, was actually better prepared for the rigors of college and the job world.

His need to solve problems along the way, usually supported by people who knew him well, turned out to be a huge advantage.

Further, his self-concept was not founded on an impossible sense of perfection. He learned early that making mistakes was normal and that folks were not going to give up on him.

As parents, we like our children to behave. We want them to be successful as students and people and not to have to confront too much adversity. Sometimes, we want to protect them too much.

And, if we are honest, we fear that their mistakes might reflect poorly on us.

When parents get too caught up in a situation, I urge them to think back to their own youths and recall a situation in which they blew it. What did they learn? How did they recover?

If we are honest, none of us was perfect. Nor are our children. Perfect is neither fun nor healthy. Don’t waste being a kid by being afraid of life.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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