Yeah, kind of an odd title I admit, but this weekend I attended an Internet marketing event and there were a couple of high-powered “motivational speakers” (I use quotes because I didn’t find them very motivating, personally), one of whom made a very interesting comment…
To set this up, the guy, cut from the Tony Robbins Type-A mold, had spent the previous hour on stage telling us how successful he was, how much money he made, how he had a private jet and how the one time recently he flew commercial he was lost and had no idea what it was to “line up”, yadda yadda. Big, big ego, and very proud of his financial achievements.
Part of the shtick these guys use (and yes, it’s almost always powerful, forceful men who give these sort of talks in my experience) is to talk about their troubled childhood and their families. Is it true? Maybe. Is it manipulative and deliberate on their part to build sympathy so they can sell you something shortly thereafter? You betcha.
So this unnamed guy is showing off his $20,000 watch and showing us pictures of his private jet and he made an interesting comment…
He showed us a picture of his three children and his wife and said “I didn’t want my wife to be a taxi driver, so I hired someone to drive the kids around and gave her the freedom to pursue her own goals!”
People in the audience were impressed, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized that there was a profound lack of understanding behind his comment, a cluelessness that’s going to — in my opinion, at least — doom him, and perhaps his wife, to have a poor to non-existent relationship with his children.
Why? Because I think parenting happens accidentally. I think that it’s when we’re driving to the library, walking down the aisle of the supermarket or standing in line to get a latte at Starbucks that we have those little conversations with our children and gain insight into who they are and what they find interesting, important, repulsive, motivating, attractive, etc.
To put this another way, I don’t think parenting happens via appointment. I have never been able to have a “conference” with my children, solo or in a group, and get any sort of benefit from the experience. Parenting happens “between the cracks”, when you’re part of their lives and them yours.
Does that make sense?
In fact, I say, it’s precisely when I’m driving my son to grab a new book at the store or taking my daughter to look for a new pair of sneakers that we have those incredibly important little conversations that add up to a full, deep, rich relationship.
That chauffer? I can already imagine how it goes: kids in back, texting away, in their own world, Mom and Dad in their own worlds, and it’s like a happy little corporation with everyone working on achieving their personal goals and objectives. Once every day or two they all rendezvous for a quick meeting over a dinner doubtless prepared by their chef, and never do they actually connect.
To many in the audience, I think it sounded very appealing, and goodness knows that with three kids I have definitely spent too darn much time shuttling people around. But that’s what parenting is. Not the meetings, not the shepherding, but the participation in their lives, day to day, tedious and boring along with fun and exciting.