Passing our own limitations down to our children

limitationsIt took me three attempts to get my driver’s license.

I knew how to drive. I had zero mistakes in my theoretical exam. And yet, three times.

The reason? Fear. Plain old fear.

I’m a rather cautious person to begin with. I’m afraid to do something wrong, even more so when I was a teenager. But there were many other areas of my life, where I overcame fear, worked with it, didn’t let it stop me.

Driving, on the other hand, was also a fear of my mom’s. She’d drive, but never be completely comfortable. So every single one of my worries got a response to feed it.

  • “I’m afraid to drive in the dark.” – “Me, too.”
  • “I’m worried that I might hit another car when I need to parallel park. (*I grew up in Germany so you HAVE to parallel park.)” – “Me, too.”
  • “What if I don’t have enough time to pass this car?” – “I always worry about this, too.”

Now, I’m not blaming my mom for my rocky driving start. My sisters (not as cautious as me) have the same mom and they had no problems driving. What I am saying though is that we are quick, sometimes even glad, to foster our own insecurities in our children.

I see this over and over when it comes to math. And it drives me mad.

  • “I didn’t like math either in school.”
  • “It’s just not in our genes.”
  • “Girls have a hard time with math.”
  • “You don’t need that stuff in the real world.”

Misery loves company, as the old saying goes. Limitations do too. So do fears.

Sure thing, you’re probably not going to use every math skill ever studied. But do you really want to keep your kids from becoming engineers, physicists, or any other career that relies on math starting in grade school because it was hard for YOU?

I see this when it comes to other issues as well.

  • “He worries a lot but so do I.”
  • “She’s just as uncoordinated as her dad.”
  • “Teachers are mean.”
  • “Tools are dangerous.”

You name it; one of us has said it. And there’s no way completely around it.

But when it comes to bigger issues, we should check in with ourselves and make sure that the limitation we’re passing on is not to comfort ourselves, calm ourselves, or somehow make our own shortcomings more acceptable.

This isn’t about us as parents. This is about leaving the canvas as blank as possible so that our children can draw their own picture, find the true self that they’re meant to be.

The driver’s test doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m actually quite a good driver these days. And so not all is lost even if we pass on some troublesome messages. But we sure make it easier on our sons and daughters if we just keep our own fears to ourselves once in a while.