"We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt
I saw this quote for the first time today and it has stuck with me like flies on a cow patty (Southern roots showing there). As a parent, I often worry about my children's future. The pendulous economy. The uncertainties of threats both far away and in our own neighborhoods. The premature exposure to sexual images, bad language, cruelty, and peer pressure. Good grades. College savings. The influence of social networking and unrealistic expectations created by society. In my daily struggle to feed them, clothe them, keep them healthy, and love them, I often feel like a ninja warrior trying to deflect danger flying from all directions. So much is beyond my control. I can't single-handedly change Congress's spending, hunt down and prosecute every predator, or bubble-wrap my children's eyes and ears.
I've come to terms with the limitations of being one person who lacks a superhero's cape. I understand that I can't protect my children from the realities of our world by cocooning them away in a bunker of safety. Not only is it unrealistic, it's actually harmful to them because it prevents them from ever learning how to care for themselves and make good decisions. My job is not to protect them from all that does and will bombard them. My job as their parent is to give them the tools to protect themselves. I must teach them empathy, patience, assertiveness, resiliency, open-mindedness, and honesty. I must arm them with logic, the ability to ask questions, and the art of listening. Rather than stuff them in an armored car and drive them through life, I must teach them how to drive.
For as FDR said, I can't create my children's world. I can only love them and show them how to navigate the road.