Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Meditation on "The Vault"

I've already written in a previous post about the long-standing symbolism of seeds as units of potential, and intellectualized about the human condition and whether we possess the ability to realize any kind of potential other than technological. Now that I'm finally putting pen to paper on this script, today's Friday meditation is more personal: How do we feel the expectations of our parents when we are children, and how do we place expectations on our children when we become parents?

As children, parental expectations produce all kinds of complex and contradictory effects. The biggest insult would be to feel that your parent(s) have no expectations of you whatsoever, which means that you're simply untalented and incapable. The biggest stress is to feel that your mother or father has gathered all of life's perceived failures into a giant heap and placed it on your shoulders--the "Tennis Dad" run amok. I recall recently reading an article ... probably in reaction to the "Tiger Mom" controversy ... about adults who as kids were pushed into prodigy. The lasting image was of a former virtuoso child pianist who now lives in a house in which a grand piano is suspended above him in the living room. Needless to say, he no longer plays, and probably has more than a sliver in his budget pie set aside for therapy.

As kids, you feel that expectation, for better or worse. You need to feel it. It needs to be there. And at some point, you decide whether you will embrace it or rebel against it. If you're lucky, your true ambitions match well with your parents' expectations, and you will be comfortable in your own skin. More likely, they won't be a perfect fit, and you will choose either to appease in exchange for approval, or reject (and face disappointment) in exchange for freedom. As a parent, I constantly think about those sacred cows I probably don't even realize I have, and the possibility that my only child might one day reject them (e.g., he'll not only reject the notion of studying abroad while attending a liberal arts college, he'll reject the entire notion of "college" as antiquated, and the concept of "liberal arts" as quaint, trite and no longer relevant).

And how will that make me feel? Disappointed in the rejection of what I value? Or pride in the fact that he is choosing to be his own man?