As a parent, you spend most of your time on logistics. It starts when you need to keep the infant alive. Then, you aim the kid for compounding bits of self-sufficiency. Feeding himself, sleeping through the night, getting dressed, sitting still for twenty minutes: these are the little miracles of successful parenting. After these, you get to the stage of advanced logistics: school, camp, activities, classes, events. The minivan, color-coded calendar, and crowded weekend mornings aren't what you aim for, but they happen.
The logistics takes an increasing level of effort, but like a savvy coach, the parent is always aiming for something just out of current reach. My non-logistics energy is aimed at teaching my kids a modicum of self-awareness. I don't think people arrive in the world knowing how they're perceived: there's often a huge gap between intention and behavior, but they just can't quite tell. I don't think kids arrive maladjusted, it's more that they need to learn to adjust their behavior to align with their intention. Everyone wants to be treated kindly, but learning to treat others kindly takes some effort.
And so I find myself in moments of near-theatrical absurdity. The other evening, at my wits' end, I wrote out the golden rule on a little writing tablet. Holding up my poor block lettering, I asked my older two kids to consider: would they enjoy being treated as they'd just treated each other? I don't say this to brag on my patient parenting. My question immediately led to a factual dispute about whether one could reach and punch the other even if their arms were shorter, and with this unequal wingspan, could the golden rule even apply?
I wouldn't want to be punched when I was walking by someone, but I doubt they could actually reach me.
Self-awareness takes work.
The difficulty rises when you feel justified in being unkind; it rises the more when you realize you're on to something great; it's almost impossible to understand what's unique about your success. Self-awareness is the theme of the three pieces I present for your consideration this week: David Brooks on why we think we should be mean to each other; an excellent story about Bill Watterson, who was truly on to something great; and, last, the sad tale about how, in making baseball faster, the game's stewards have left a void where it used to shine. Enjoy the reading!