Getting Out of My Children’s Way

“I am so happy to see you.  Tell me about your week,” I fondly said to my 15 yr-old when I arrived home from the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards.  “What battles did you win on World of Warcraft?  Would you like to grab lunch tomorrow so we can catch up?”

I did say, “I'm so happy to see you.”

The rest of the conversation is fictionalized.  It went more like, “Did you finish your homework for Monday?  Have you practiced trombone?  It's time for you to go to bed.”


Unfortunately, I seem to be learning to positive-speak rather slowly.  Here's a recap of an interchange with my daughter in mid 2010.


My 9 yr-old daughter bounded into our bedroom this morning, announcing that she has two projects on the docket for today.  The first is a habitat with rocks and soil in a re-purposed lizard tank (think fish tank but for land creatures).  The second is to make animals out of homemade play-doh and paint them.

As I listened to the unveiling of her plans, the only thing I could really focus on was that her fingernails were dirty, and needed to be cut before we go to church.


I did finally push out of my mouth something like “What great initiative Miranda! Sounds like a terrific project!”  But this was not my first or even screaming-to-be-said thought.

When we interact with adults, and even other people's children, we make a concerted effort to emphasize the good over the bad, carefully timing any bad.  Yet we often, even compulsively, and clumsily point out what isn't right with our children.

Wrote William James, “the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

I'm thinking that if I want to rear children that know how to dream, and be a person around whom others will feel it's safe to dream, it would behoove me to work on overlooking the bad, underscoring the good.

I will eventually mention that my daughter needs to trim her nails, because good grooming is important. But the timing difference — a delay of just two hours — is key.

I sometimes wonder if the biggest obstacle to my children's dreams is me.

May we know what and when to overlook.

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