Morning TV on childhood (Part 2)

In 2005, I gave a long interview about my book, Under Pressure, on morning TV in Canada. That means we talked about children, parenting, education, etc. This is Part 2 of the interview. Part 1 is a separate clip on the site.

Jobs for the boys (and girls)

I’ve just returned from a speaking tour of the US and Canada (more on that to come), and someone at a talk/workshop I gave in Edmonton sent me this snippet from a blog. It’s amusing in a sardonic way. And maybe the punch line can be read in more ways than one.

Anyway, here it is:

If you think the coming nuclear winter will make the job market tough for employees, you need to hear about the job offer my daughter got recently.
The job has:
  • $0 salary and no equity (you’re supposed to be compensated in experience)
  • no benefits other than vacation and sick time – no insurance, for example
  • no possibility of promotion or raise, ever
  • no job description – just do what you’re told
  • micromanaging boss asks about project status every hour
  • strict hours, starting at 8:30AM sharp
  • if you’re late even a few minutes, your boss sends you to her boss
  • rigid workweek, but then you’re expected to work from home a ton
  • open-desk seating, not even a cube, with a hard chair
  • the work is boring and demeaning, like adding digits and copying text
  • all your useless work gets thrown away
  • if you want to use a computer, you can buy one or just scribble on paper
  • no supplies room
  • my daughter can’t drive so commute was complicated
  • can’t even put the job on your resume until you work there for a decade
I wish this was a joke or I was making it up.
Having consulted with me, my daughter of course rejected this ridiculous offer and is now just working on side projects while looking for a better opportunity.
But millions of other 7-year olds accepted identical offers.

Giving children space

One of things I examine in Under Pressure is how we can become over-invested in our children, treating them as a mini-me. These days you often hear people talking about their kids with the collective pronoun: “We have lots of homework this weekend;” “we are signing up for football this year;” “we are applying to Harvard or Oxford.” This may start out from the noble instinct to do the best for our children and to be close to them, but it can go too far. Another problem is that in a culture in thrall to management science the temptation to approach child-rearing as a kind of product-development is strong. So we think: “If I add X to my child, I’ll get Y at the other end.” Unfortunately that is not how it works. Child-rearing is much more complex, blurry and confusing than that – and all the more thrilling and enriching as a result, I think. A child is not a product but a person born with his own character, aptitudes and flaws – his own soul. In that sense, parenting is more about discovering and celebrating who our children are rather than striving constantly to turn them into what we want them to be.

Since Under Pressure came out, several readers have sent me a poem by Kahlil Gibran that sums up these ideas with a gentle beauty. So I figured I’d share it here:

On Children

“Your children are not your children.?

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.?

They come through you but not from you,?

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

?For they have their own thoughts.?

You may house their bodies but not their souls,?

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, ?which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.?

You may strive to be like them, ?but seek not to make them like you.?

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children?as living arrows are sent forth.?

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, ?

and He bends you with His might ?that His arrows may go swift and far.

?Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;?

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, ?

so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

And while we’re on the subject, here is something that Anne Frank wrote:

“Parents can only give good advice or put [children] on the right paths,

but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Maiden blog

Hi everyone! My new site is finally live. I will be blogging here and at At the moment, I’m in Ottawa, four days into the North American tour for my new book, Under Pressure. There is nothing less slow than a book tour but it has to be done every few years. The upside is that the reaction to the book has so far been very favourable. People seem to get it. And it’s not just parents. Yesterday, a 24-year-old told me about her over-scheduled childhood. Her college application contained two pages for extracurricular activities and she won a scholarship based on her work in community development. But as soon as she left home and school, she dropped everything, including the community development. “I feel ashamed because everything I was doing in high school had an ulterior motive,” she said. “Looking back it would have been nicer to done things for their own sake.” Sure, she got the scholarship, but what did she lose along the way?