There is richness in the mundane that will never be discovered if we cover it up with extravagance.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was relating a conversation he had with his teenage daughter. She asked her father what he thought would be a good career for her. In somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek answer that smacked of a harsh reality, he replied, “If you want to live like we do in this town, then you’re going to have to become an investment banker.”
By no means does my friend live an extravagant lifestyle, but he is a successful realist that values his tight knit family and friends dearly. The most important lesson I received from this story was the following: what does the child, who enjoys all the spices of life, strive for during their years of independence?
Just this past week I was talking to another friend, who happened to be in on the aforementioned conversation. He was discussing how expensive NJ has become and how he’s glad his children (I’m the godfather to his son) don’t recognize the dollar value of certain vacations. They just love going away as a family, whether it is a weekend down to see friends in Delaware or all the way to the Philippines where his wife’s family is from.
That’s when our friend’s story about his teenage daughter hit us. What if all of the hard work and all of the guilty feelings of being away from one’s children turn into a trap of compensation?
Feeling the need to fill that void of guilt with more extravagance than a child is capable of appreciating or imagining. Children are not born knowing the difference between something extravagant versus something mundane. The more ubiquitous the extravagance, the more it is expected. Meanwhile, everything else becomes subpar.
This leaves children with the real world struggle of either never being able to replicate their childhood experience or finding their childhood to be such a fantasy that it ruins their taste for everyday living.
As my mentor would caution me, “You don’t feed lobster to a baby,” when he saw students cajoling us to give them more information than they could chew in one class. “Less is more,” he’d follow up with, as he explained that without a strong foundation, it will not matter how intricate and beautiful the ornament adorned upon a roof if it crumbles under the slightest bit of pressure.
May we all have children that find joy in the mundane and a foundation of happiness from which they can spring towards greater heights of their own choosing.