Bridgette said to me the other night, “When I grow up, I want to be a Princess.” I couldn’t help laughing, causing Bridgette to frown.
“That’s not funny mommy!”
I bit back my laughter and thought about it. To me, her statement seemed plain silly and ridiculous, as absurd as her telling me she wants to be the Easter Bunny when she grows up. But then again, who am I to judge? Perhaps Kate Middleton said the same thing to her mother when she was 4 years old. Her mom, Carole Middleton, probably laughed too! And here they are, 25 years later, marrying into the royal family in front of billions of people.
I’m not saying that Bridgette will indeed become a princess when she grows up, but this simple conversation made me reflect on the fact that children needs enough autonomy to discover who they really want to be. Children have the capability to let their imaginations run wild, and that is a beautiful thing.
Parents influence their children greatly, in both subtle, and direct ways. We have to be cognizant of the fact that our words could very well confine our children in a tight little box. I admit I have dreams for Bridgette, lots of them, but Alan and I are constantly reminding each other that we should help and encourage Bridgette to fulfill her dreams, not ours. I see her swimming like a fish in the water, and I would think ‘Gosh, she’s a natural. We should nurture her in this area so she can excel as a swimmer!’ I think it’s a good thing that we can support her in that way, but if she decides she doesn’t like to swim after all, or that she only enjoys swimming as a leisurely hobby, then I have to be at peace with that too. Maybe a part of me will argue ‘But she’s got so much potential….’ but that doesn’t matter. I will have to learn to respect and trust my daughter’s decisions as she grows up.
Or….maybe none of those. And that’s okay.
I don’t intend to be a tiger mom. In fact, when I read Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“, I was actually a bit outraged. How could a mother go through such extremes to force her daughters to be what she defined as ‘successful’? Did she even care about their happiness? Being Chinese, I could relate somewhat to the pressure that her daughters faced, and how the pressure evolved into anger and resentment at some point (though my parents were nowhere near Amy’s extremity). However, there were some aspects that I agreed with Amy on, such as the need to focus our children in a few things so they can at least have the opportunity to be well at it. Amy makes a valid point that children and young adults give up too easily; they do not realize that if they only allowed themselves the time to master and excel in something, they will learn to love it because they will feel fulfilled and accomplished. What I mostly disagreed on, was Amy’s (and many parents) constant perspective of ‘I know what’s better for you’ towards her children, and the tactics that she used to force her daughters to excel as musicians. Sometimes, we as parents really need to learn to listen to our children and acknowledge their feelings and perspectives. I know I can’t be too liberal, as the fact of the matter is that children, “tweens”, and teens just do not have the maturity in their brains to make sound decisions. However, I feel that there has to be a balance, where we protect and guide our children without being an overbearing ‘tiger mother’ (or father).
At 4 years old, Bridgette is still way too young for me to burst her bubbles. Now, if she is 18 years old and telling me that her goal is to be a Princess, then I’d be a little worried…