Sometimes Better is Backwards

It is said that every generation of parents always wants better for their children. On the morning of my youngest child’s high school graduation, I consider… 

Some of what I want for my child – some of what I believe is better – is backwards. 

In my heart of hearts, I don’t want him to have more material things than I’ve had – a bigger house, a better car, nicer vacations. My best car-buying experience was taking on all payments for a brand new Ford Escort right out of college. I still remember the joy I felt in saving up for – and installing – and spending hours on – a porch swing on the front porch of one of my earliest apartments.  I recall the thrill of being able to afford a hotel room with my husband on one of our very first trips away together. It was modest, but we’d paid for every cent of it, and it felt like freedom and luxury. 

When I dream about the future for my son, I realize that I’m not necessarily dreaming forward. Unlike what the “50 Best Colleges in America” articles tend to tout, I care less about how much he’ll make, how far he’ll travel, how high he’ll climb than things that are timelessly tied to human fulfillment – things that sometimes fall to the peripheral vision of our forward-striving society :

  • Building a group of friends who truly know and love him for who he is. 
  • Finding a job he can’t wait to tackle every morning. 
  • Having a place he loves to call home. No matter how modest. 
  • Paying off his first car, and feeling a bit sad when it’s time to part with it. 
  • Listening to and pursuing the desires of his heart… for purpose, not prominence.
  • Becoming a good citizen, husband, father; knowing he is loved by those he loves well. 
  • Valuing family and community above all else. 
  • Truly liking the man he sees in the mirror. 

When I look at this list, I see my parents, my grandparents – those who worked hard, led good lives, chose integrity and family over pride and status, dreamed and prayed me into my place in life. I see backwards. And I realize: Wanting better for my son looks less like “progress” and a whole lot more like time-honored purpose. 

And I am perfectly okay with that. May he be so blessed. 

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