“As we grow, we’ll realise that pushing our kids to start learning how to code from a young age or pick interests in sports is not different from our parents wanting us to become doctors, lawyers, or engineers back then.”~ T. O.
Seeing this view on a friend’s WhatsApp status, it resonated well with my thinking that I decided to share a screenshot with a simple caption: “Care (Concern) or Selfishness?” It would appear that limiting the conversation to WhatsApp just would not cut it, so here is a full article inspired by T. O.
Growing up in Nigeria, it was ultra-normal to hear that parents wanted their children to either study medicine, engineering, or law (MEL). Of course, for such families, university education was non-negotiable. The only thing that might be discussed was which fork of the triad a child would take as his or her career. Another ultra-normal view was the belief that the smartest students took up one of the three courses. But while many parents would want their kids to join the MEL club, many children saw it as an over-reach by selfish, insensitive parents who only cared about the societal glamour associated with having a MEL child.
You can now appreciate why I felt the introductory quote would trigger a good number of persons. The world seems to have moved on. Today, with many software “engineers” easily earning salaries that few government-licensed engineers can earn, IT skills seeming to be required for almost every activity, and manifold buzz about Industry 4.0 (aka Fourth Industrial Revolution), many parents now consider it a given that their kids must learn coding skills at an early age. Similarly, the likes of Lionel Messi, the Williams Sisters, and other sports stars who earned their stripes from childhood appears to have made more parents beholden to the idea of their children becoming high-grossing athletes.
Interestingly, some commenters on my WhatsApp status sought to differentiate between the preference of our parents’ generation and ours because “coding skills are indispensable”, or “learning coding skills requires less time than training to join the MEL club”. While these views are very valid, I think they overlook an important point about the intentions of the parents. In an older article about the societal imperative, I suggested that some actions are driven by forces seemingly beyond our control as we act in ways that fall in line with some communal expectation. I think the same applies here.
Now is a good time to clearly accept that there are parents who act selfishly and want to dictate their kid’s life’s choices for reasons unrelated to their kid’s wellbeing. However, for many, or dare I say most parents, they may genuinely seek the good of kids and actively approach that good in whatever way they (rightly or wrongly) think is right and achievable. A parent who wanted his or her child to study MEL courses may have been driven by the relatively high salaries and prestige that resulted from having degrees in those fields. Hence, the parent would have felt pushing a child towards those fields was to give the child a chance at a better future. This is the same philosophy driving a parent in today’s world who wants a child to learn coding to ensure that child gets certain skills that would be valuable in future. However, just as being a medical doctor has never guaranteed future prosperity, acquiring the most precise and innovative coding skills cannot guarantee that a person would be prosperous in future. Parents may just try to give their kids the best possible footing in life.
The analogy above can be applied to a lot of issues that concern parents and children. Excluding clearly irrational views and psychopathic behaviour, I reckon that if we fairly evaluate many actions and decisions taken with regards to children, we would find that a parent, even where he or she might be misguided, was genuinely seeking to help his or her child, or genuinely assumed that a given action would be to the child’s benefit in the long-run. Understanding this could make us a bit more circumspect and less dismissive of our parents, and also seek for ways to communicate our intent to our children, so they may see what we think we see. It could also help us draw a line between helping a child develop his or her natural interests as opposed to forcing a child to become the person we could not become. We should remember that as long as the earth remains, what would be has been before, and what has been would be again.
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