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On Tiger Moms, the problem of "adulting", and the selfishly generous notion of raising interesting kids
Few genres are as congested with a surplus of content as the subject of parenting. In addition to the thousands of books that can be found in bookstores and libraries on the topic, there are mom blogs, parenting Facebook groups, and podcasts aplenty. That's not to mention the well-established industry of parenting-related periodicals.
■ Millions of barrels of ink have been spilled on matters like raising kids to be successful in life (like a "Tiger Mom", for instance), or imposing the kind of discipline that won't scar the child emotionally, or instilling "grit" into young minds. But it's rare to find anyone who talks about raising raising children to become interesting adults.
■ Not materially successful. Not religiously devout. Not academically credentialed -- or simply capable of performing basic tasks without ironically calling it "adulting". Just...interesting.
■ The omission is odd, because if one has children at an average age (somewhere in the late 20s through the 30s), and lives to a median age (into the 80s for those who survive through the typical child-rearing years), then one will spend far more time with their offspring as adults than with them as children. As in, decades more.
■ People talk a lot about doing things "for the children" or "for future generations", but quite selfishly, we ought to want to turn out adults who are fundamentally interesting people. There's probably some correlation between being interesting and having other virtues. But it doesn't have to be anything other than its own justification. It is quite enough to simply want interesting people around when one reaches later life. And some of the people most likely to remain around are one's own offspring.
■ "Interesting" comes in all sorts of flavors, of course, but it generally starts with having interests -- a sense of curiosity and of openness to ideas and experiences. It also calls for having at least some motivation to do things, rather than existing passively.
■ It's not very interesting to be defined by what products or media one consumes. Helping children to find those motivations and interests is not only a way to produce more interesting adults (whom parents can enjoy as they grow into peers), it is also a way to help insulate children against some of the hazards of this age -- especially the still-new and still-evolving pressures that come from living in a world saturated by social media.
■ It's not an obvious responsibility to help a person become interesting -- but it can be a gift. And though there are not yet any search results for "How to raise interesting children", there ought to be. In more ways than we realize, the future depends upon it.