I love the bedtime conversations I have with my son. They are often fantastical yarns about being a superhero with bizarre powers, usually involving poo and wee. But last night, lying on his bed, we spoke about the future and what sort of grown up he will be. It turns out that when he is a Daddy he “will play video games all the time and buy his children whatever apps and video games they like.” I think this may have been a subtle side swipe at my lack of generosity or maybe I am just being paranoid?! He did hint at other more altruistic pursuits (I won’t mention them for fear of accusations of virtue signalling) but the conversation did get me thinking about the future and the hopes I had of them. It began from a very soft ‘I don’t really mind as long as their happy’ point of view but on further reflection I had to admit to myself that I did have specific expectations of them and that I am not as free and easy as I had hoped.
Fundamentally and without wishing to make too broad a generalisation, I believe all parents have a shared hope: we want our kids to be happy people. Simple enough in principal, but the subjective nature surrounding the concept of happiness brings up the question as to whether parents have a role to play in making this most basic of hopes a reality? I don’t think I would confidently say that we do but I am inclined to lean this way, primarily because I do think that the emotional building blocks we provide our kids should lead them to be more rounded and healthy people which some would argue is a key to leading a happy life.
I know we are touching the nature/nurture debate and that shouldn’t be dismissed. I think large parts of our personality develop from the innate and natural instincts within us, but there is a malleable part that develops and is influenced by our life experiences. The gift of sentience brings many complex and emotional challenges to life, challenges that are on the whole necessary. How we navigate these obstacles can have a huge impact in shaping the people we become. As a parent the impact of not providing the right support/emotional tools to do this and the subsequent affect this could have on my kids’ personalities is a terrifying thought? Will I mess things up to such a degree that they will become axe wielding homicidal maniacs? Probably not but you never know!
Matters seem to have been concluded in my head; as long as they are happy and not Jason Voorhees I have done my job but something still didn’t feel fully resolved. I know happiness is subjective and they will find a path to whatever their contentment may be but this felt too whimsical for me. There was quite an ugly truth I couldn’t ignore and that was money and its ability to help find happiness. I know, I know. I am shallow for equating money to happiness but I think it is naïve to think that money does not at least create more opportunities to find your own happiness. Experience has at least taught me this and on reflection I would be lying if I said that it didn’t have an input on my hopes for their future and expectations of them.
What exactly those hopes and expectations actually equate to in terms of the salary I think they should earn, or the profession I would like them to follow should perhaps remain in my abstract thoughts as these things rarely play out how you think they should and in truth it won’t change how I feel about my kids. I won’t be disappointed if they earn £100 or £100,000 as they would still be the same people and love, after all, is eternal and unconditional.
Written by Andy Kapadia