My oldest son recently started fourth grade. That means he’s old enough to take part in that great democracy we call student council (seems kind of young for politics, if you ask me). My child’s foray into the world of politics started innocently enough. A close friend of his announced he’d be running for class rep, boisterously telling us what he’d accomplish in his potential new role as politician; I was thrilled for this boy and gave him lots of positive reinforcement (what a great life lesson for him to put himself out there and see where it all could go!).
My enthusiasm turned out to be a big mistake. In fact, it’s precisely what led my son –who previously had zero interest in student council – to announce that he, too, was going to run for class rep. I was shocked and dismayed. Truth be told, I wasn’t ready to deal with my boy’s potential heartbreak should he lose. And his friend certainly wasn’t looking for more competition (a whopping eight out of 17 kids were already after the job).
I still felt that running for class rep was a great life lesson – just not for my child. According a recent article in The New York Times Magazine, failure is really important for children’s development and it’s actually the key to success in the long run. One interesting finding shows that kids who succeed in university are not the ones who have done well in school all their lives; rather they are people who can handle failures and disappointments, get back up and try again.
It all sounds great – in theory. In actuality, I’m not yet ready to let my kids fail. I am still swooping in and saving them every chance I get. I can’t help it. I’m the kind of person who cries at sad and even happy movies. I cry during sporting events like the Olympics as I’m imagining how many hurdles an athlete must have overcome to get to that prized position. And how much their mother must have endured along the way. I am really not strong enough to be a mother, I often think to myself, and definitely not thick-skinned enough to be the kind of mother that puts her kid out there to fail.
This explains why a student council race was not something I was prepared for at this juncture. So I kiboshed it. Obviously I couldn’t just tell my kid that he wasn’t allowed to run for class rep – that would just be really bad parenting and the stuff of long-term therapy for him. I needed to be more subtly manipulative. Recognizing my son’s friend as a partner-in-crime, I thought fast announced with great certainty that a wonderful idea would be for the two of them to work together.
“You can be his campaign manager,” I told my son excitedly. It took a bit of the sell job but once my little compadre jumped in with full enthusiasm, we were away to the races. I talked marketing and strategy (my real skills in life) about the power of the two of them against all the individual candidates, and both boys seemed very happy with this new turn of events.
Am I evil? Not really. I am just in no way ready to deal with the possible heartbreak of my kid not achieving something he wants so badly. Especially something that’s essentially a popularity contest. It’s not that I don’t think he could win; it’s just that right now he’s still too sweet and innocent to be part of the cutthroat world of politics. But, get ready, because it’s going to be a big sweep in 2012/13.