Parents and Grandparents are prone to spoil the young. I suggest the best use of this inclination is to invest in broadening the worldview of children. Preferably through both education and experience, be a spendthrift upon the youngest amongst. At least 3 benefits arise from such an investment.
Recently, I have begun reading “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Many an expert say it is among the best of American non-fiction. More than a window to the mind of a United States President and hero of the Civil War, through his writings we peak into the mind of a humble American of his time. More inspiring, we read the words of a husband writing to provide for his wife and family. Full circle of heroism.
Grant writes, “Mindful of his (Grant’s father) own lack of facilities for acquiring an education, his greatest desire in maturer years was for the education of his children.” Grant graduated from West Point. At the age of 15 years old, and younger, he was traveling beyond his county (as much as 70 miles or more at a time when travel was by foot, horse or locomotive) and executing the trade of horses, without guidance from adults.
I am reminded of my maternal grandfather and his dreams of education for his family. Having an 8th grade education, he desired a high school graduation for his children and their spouses. He filled 8×10 frames with high school graduation pictures. My Papaw then desired, as did the family, college educations for my generation. More 8×10 frames were filled with graduation pictures.
Our family was also supportive of experiencing the world. As a graduate student, I spent a semester studying in Australia. My son, Joseph, took a school trip to France and Italy. My oldest daughter, Kaitlyn, invested a semester of study in Copenhagen. Colin will complete a university degree in Canada with study experience in France. Kendal, our youngest, has traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. My wife and I were engaged in Paris.
- Healthy confidence is nurtured by exposure to a larger world. We fear the unknown. The more known is the world, the less we fear. Consequently our confidence grows. Developing confidence via exposure to a larger world typically includes a healthy experience of humility. A balance of confidence and humility is a boon.
- Acceptance of diversity is nurtured by exposure to a larger world. Advanced education and overseas travel provide engagement with diverse cultures. Learning to coexist with diverse cultures promotes more peaceful communities.
- The horizon of hopes and dreams is expanded by exposure to a larger world. We do not know what we do not know. Conversely, we dream larger the more we know. In medieval times, artisans were brought vast distances to share their craft with local artisans, thus expanding the horizon of possibility among the local builders and guilds.
It is tempting to embrace an attitude that our children are best benefited by struggling as we struggled. Have you thought it would benefit your children to get a job at the same age you had a job? Or have you thought it would benefit your children to have the experience of paying for college themselves rather than having help from family / friends / etc.? If we want our children to be no better than ourselves, these models might work. Too often, due to inflation these models leave children in a lower economic status than their parents.
Sending children on overseas school trips is a privilege to celebrate. Other models are equally powerful. Supporting economic choice at an early age can empower a child to see a brighter future. Investing in a higher education through community college or trade school can broaden a young person’s horizon.
We are so ready to deny ourselves that our children / grandchildren might have the best disney experience or the best birthday party. These important moments do create memories worthy of the expense. I propose a more lasting investment of our self-denial.
If we truly want more for our children / grandchildren / next generation, let us put our pocketbook where our words have stepped. Let us not be mouthpieces who piped the dream of a better future for the next generation, then balk at the cost to ourselves with pretentious words of raising children to know the struggle that formed us.
Life is such that our children are certain to experience struggle. If struggle is a definition of a life well spent, be assured struggle will find each of our offspring. If we LOVE our children and the next generation, we are called to invest so as to prevent as much struggle as possible. Our celebration is that our children need not walk uphill both ways in the snow to school. That is a way to spend our lives well.