Many times we, as parents, state what we want for our children. And, more often than not, we say that we want them to be happy and successful; happy and successful — as if happiness was not enough. And maybe, to be true to ourselves, it really isn’t. It isn’t because our egos want our children to be successful so that their success will mean we were good parents; so that we can be proud of our children. How then do we define success? Many may say that their children would be successful if they have good careers (which can be tongue in cheek for ‘if they make a lot of money’ (or at least more money than our friends’ children). Others may define success as not having to ‘want’ for anything. I am yet to meet such a person. I lie. There are some who have given their lives over to charity who want for little and seem content with less. Even though we admire those Saint Theresas among us, very few of us want our children to follow such a path. To us, such a path of austerity and self-sacrifice is a difficult life and we do not want our children to experience such hardship.
The philosophy at what defines success is broad an open-ended and I digress from the point I wished make. So let me drag myself back to what we think as success for our children and the danger that this poses. We are all fully acquainted with the concept of a child pursuing a career which he or she thinks will make one or both parents happy. The movies are filled with variations on this theme. What I want to look at is something more hidden, but a bit more sinister and one which I have never seen depicted on the silver screen. In fact, it is a concept that is so hard to put into words that I will have to employ some illustration. I know of three successful young people who have committed suicide even though they had the most promising and ‘successful’ careers. A cousin of a friend of mine was a successful accountant who migrated to Canada years ago and married a Canadian who bore two of his beautiful children. The marriage ended in divorce. She got the children. He could not take the stress and gassed himself in his garage with the car engine running. Maybe he could not handle his picture perfect future with his kids being shattered. Who knows? The son of a colleague of a cousin of mine committed suicide at twenty-five. He was a medical doctor at twenty two working at the Port of Spain General Hospital. Another successful accountant, the only son of a past government Minister in Trinidad and Tobago, committed suicide at a well known hotel in 2005. Why? The answer is stress in one form or another. These cases may be extreme, but there are many people in successful careers who are unhappy in some way or cannot handle the stress that ‘life’ may throw at them. In fact, most people are subconsciously unhappy and are not even aware of it.
If you need to escape from the stresses of your job or life so that you ‘have’ to go to a pub to take a drink, or to watch a movie, or some such thing to de-stress from your job or any of life’s hassles on a regular basis, then you have a serious problem.
I think I have reached the place where I wish to state what I want for my children. Yes, like all parents, I want them to be happy; and yes I want them to be successful, but by success I mean for them to get a handle on life – a handle which I am only now beginning to perceive, far less have a strong grip on it. It is very hard to put this into words. I want my children to question everything – everything! I want them to search for the meaning of life and the truth of why we are here. This may sound idealistic and overly philosophical and the rant of a madman (which maybe it is), but I want them to look at life in its face from very early. I do not want them to brush aside the real underlying issues and close one’s mind to the real problems just because we cannot truly wrap our minds around them. I believe they will be better humans if they do. I pray that God will give me the courage to pursue this and not give up. And, I believe that educating one’s children away from compulsion and imbibed in love is the beginning. I believe that trusting my child has a lot to do with trusting my God.
I want my child to be a better person than I am…