The Parenting Lesson of the Royal Wedding
I can’t stop thinking about the Royal Wedding.
You bet your tushy we watched it. A friend came over with fascinators, homemade scones, and clotted cream. I broke a cardinal rule of parenting and woke my daughters up on a weekend morning, and we turned on the TV an hour before the ceremony even started.
My husband thought it was all a bit ridiculous, so he stayed in bed. His loss. (Actually his win, because #sleep, but whatever.)
I loved it. I loved the celebrity sightings and the page boys and flower girls and Harry’s beard and Meghan’s dress and the tiara (OMG THE TIARA) and the singing and the preaching and the carriage ride and the commentary and I loved every single minute.
Mostly I loved Meghan’s mom. I was riveted, and not just because she’s a social worker and yogini. *Swoon.* I loved her because she managed to look gorgeous and poised and strong and collected while at the same time seeming vulnerable and scared and unsure and totally relatable.
I kept imagining what it must have been like for her to be there, on that day, watching her only daughter marry a prince. In a castle. And not some BS sorta-kinda-prince in some dusty old castle. We’re talking PRINCE HARRY in Windsor Freaking Castle, people. This was the real deal, and Doria Ragland literally had a front row seat. She must have been freaking out. Actually, she sort of looked like she was freaking out, but in the most composed way possible.
Somewhere in the middle of it all, I looked over at my daughters. They were sprawled on the couch, arms and legs draped in all different directions. There was definitely a finger up a nose, and I’m pretty sure there was a fart, too. I looked back at Meghan who beat all the odds not once, but twice, first by becoming a successful actress and then again, by becoming the first biracial American divorcee to marry a royal.
I glanced back at my daughters. Despite the fact that I have no royal aspirations for either of them, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell I’m supposed to get them ready for such a life. I mean, if it could happen to Meghan and Dorea, it could happen to us, right?
I thought about meal time; they still don’t remember to use their forks with any consistency. And their language. OMG I have to work on the language. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it’s proper etiquette to respond to the Queen with, “So is your face. HAHAHAHAHA.”
We’re screwed. One might even say we’re royally screwed.
The thing is, there is no way Doria Ragland could have prepared herself or her daughter for this moment, this wedding. Even if someone had informed her thirty-six years ago that her daughter would grow up to be a Duchess, it’s hard to imagine what she could have possibly done differently. Chances are that if she had tried to groom her daughter to be a princess, she would have altered the course of history and Meghan would still be shilling suitcases on game shows (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course).
Even if my daughters don’t grow up to be the first Jewish-American Princesses (Don’t say it, people. Just don’t.), there is a very real possibility that they will end up in jobs that I can’t even imagine right now. Until recently, my husband worked for a company that made an app. Apps require smartphones and the Internet to function, none of which even existed when we were kids. Not only could my girls grow up to be anything they want to be, whatever they want to be could include something that literally doesn’t exist yet.
I’m not the only parent who worries about this. (Jennifer Senior explored this dynamic in her bestselling 2015 book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood. If you haven’t read it, check it out. It’s an important and enlightening read.) While it can be tempting to try to teach our children anything and everything we can in hopes of preparing them, that’s not the most skillful strategy.
For one, you will drive yourself nuts. There’s only so much schlepping and scheduling and planning and paying any of us can do, and that’s ok. In addition, there’s no way to predict which instrument or language or sport or ballroom dancing or computer programming class will make the difference. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself and your ids can have the opposite effect; it will stress everyone out to the point of limiting creativity and growth. Finally, getting our kids ready for the future isn’t about content. It’s not about the information or techniques or skills they have.
Rather, our kids need to know how to think clearly and creatively, how to stay patient and engaged with challenging problems, how to be curious about the world around them, how to collaborate with others, how to fail without giving up, and how to manage uncomfortable emotions without freaking out.
I was going to write an entire post about this, but Phyllis Fagell beat me to the punch with her recent piece in The Washington Post’s On Parenting column. Don’t freak out when you read it; you don’t have to have a rocket scientist in the family to prepare your children for the future, but you might want to consider some of her excellent suggestions.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here fantasizing about that tiara and trying to get my daughters to use their forks.
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Tags: Mindful Parenting