Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Short-Term Planning and Parenting, FTW

Finished Range yesterday. The chapter about letting go of our familiar tools was surprisingly devastating. As in, by the time I realized what was actually being discussed, I gasped. And then I gasped again. Let me not spoil the surprise, but it's worth reading.

In a nutshell, the thesis of the book is that it's a myth that only those who specialize early will ever achieve success is a myth. Of course there are Tiger Woods, Mozarts, and Bobby Fischers, but no one -- individual or parent -- should feel like a failure if they haven't "arrived" by the age of thirty (or twenty). As one chapter discusses, personalities change over time, and the best way to arrive at a vocation that fits is to experiment or, as we lay people might put it, live. No one can guarantee greatness, but broad exposure to a wide range of materials does a better job of ensuring fit and, perhaps, happiness.

I feel comfortable saying Range speaks to the value of short- and medium-term planning, and in such a way that leaves us open to taking detours if we discover the path we're on isn't for us. That's good advice, but it's also lousy advice as the advice industry goes because it isn't neat and it doesn't come with easy to follow steps. That is, of course, part of the point, but I suspect that will be one reason why the plan early and thoroughly crowd will continue to have dominance in parenting circles. 

And that's a shame. When I've been able to step back from my hyperventilating paranoia that my children will never amount to anything if I don't make sure they are following the exact path proscribed by -- who again? -- I see and hear them creating magic. Do they spend too much with video games? Yes, as do most teenagers right now. But they're also making art, making music, and digging deep into the things that interest them. 

One of the best examples of someone who did it his way

 I haven't loved all of it -- there was a period a few years ago where I heard a little too much about a certain snarky "public intellectual" who used specious logic to demean non-binary people, among other things -- but conversations with us and exposure to critical reasoning and media literacy went a long way toward ending that phase. So, too, did maturing from a preteen to a teenager, but perhaps the most instructive was the sheer ugliness of what they saw. (Why this isn't working for people who aren't teenagers, I have no idea.)

Don't sweat two decades out; sometimes getting through two months is an achievement. Trust your judgment -- trust your children's need to explore -- and dig into the discoveries you make along the way.

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