Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The whole "simple beginnings" thing isn't going too well.

The three greatest minds I’ve ever met came from very simple beginnings.  I’ve recently realized how much this created a rigid script for me:  Simple backgrounds + lots of parental love = Great Mind. 

I’m not talking about the most traditionally-successful persons who’ve ever lived – not Nobel Prize winners, although all 3 probably could be if they’d chosen a different path. Comparing these three men, though, the parallels between their lives are remarkably similar.  And so is the outcome, at least via my definition: They have wisdom from ideas they create themselves – not ones in books or from other people – and analyze situations with this incredible insight and awareness.  All three of them, I am amazed by their minds every time we delve into a topic.

I can dump all my thoughts on any of the three, and they will absorb and process whatever I give them.  Take it, re-engineer it, and hand it back to me better than what it was in my own mind.

I love this so much.

I knew I wanted this for my children – this ability to approach any topic with a flexible intelligence and deep insight. 

It’s only recently that I’ve recognized the cognitive dissonance in me: I’ve wondered if opportunity and parental success was an obstacle to what I ultimately want for my children. 

I was raised by one of the Great Minds, and I married another one. And while both appreciate their simple beginnings, they also seem equally committed to giving their children a bigger life than the one they had.  It’s the power of parental (and grandparental) love, I think, wanting to push out the boundaries for the next generation.  Take life and experiences to the next level.

One of the Minds didn’t go to school until high school, and the other two weren’t at private schools or tagged for Gifted programs.  And here I am, believer in Simple Beginnings, bringing my children to this boutique French school.  It doesn’t resonate for me.

To be fair to my cognitive dissonance, the school isn’t fancy.  It’s two rented rooms in a church basement, with only a few families.  It’s like an incredibly expensive homeschool co-op, in many ways.  But it’s certainly diverging from this path that was ingrained in me.  
I’ve had to tease out the variables from my equation and compare them more closely.  What if it wasn’t about the simplicity, but the lack of parental pressure that let them develop their own interests?  Maybe they didn’t have museum memberships or trips abroad, but there was support and lots of love.

And maybe we’ll find out what happens when you keep all that support and love, but add in more opportunity and experiences?  Maybe we’ll see that opportunity isn’t an obstacle to Great Mindedness, but actually a step to another level?

I have no idea.  I really don’t.  My children’s lives are filled with language immersion classes and road-trips and museums on weekends.  I’m fighting my internal Script for Greatness, while also delving into our shared need for experiences, novelty, and stuffing our minds.  My children aren’t feeling pressured and stilted; they are actively begging for MORE. 

Somehow, I need to quiet the voice inside me that whispers: “Simple beginnings.  Simple beginnings.”

I don’t really know what this revised type of childhood is supposed to look like.  And, like all great parenting experiments, I haven’t any clue how it turns out in the end.  I keep thinking that if I watch the baby-steps along the way, it will keep us moving down some “right path.” That if my children remain curious and happy and intellectually-hungry, then it’s going well?

When you throw out conventional models of parenting, and then also throw out the script you thought you knew, you’re left with this blindingly white canvas staring at you.  Kinda cool.  Kinda scary.  Always interesting.