I’ve often wondered why parents do it, you know what I’m going to say, especially if you have experienced it. Why do they try to sell you their child?
It usually starts with a cursory enquiry about your offspring, and then the sales pitch begins. Little Johnny has just passed his third grade piano, while learning to juggle with broadswords and while speaking fifteen languages. Little Marcie has won a place at Oxbridge to read medicine while single-handedly saving her village by digging a well with her bare hands.
I’m being flippant, but you know this tale. You nod politely, give a watery smile and fervently wish the earth would open up around you.
So, what is going on? Do they want you to abandon your kid and immediately adopt theirs? Do they think you will neglect your beloved child to start a cult worshipping their obviously superior family?
I can’t say I fully understand it, but on a personal level I think it stems from a couple of things. It certainly is about reflected glory, the desire to bathe in their children’s accomplishments. Instead of a happy pride in them, they seem to feel the need to brandish them as trophies. Hence the term Trophy Kids.
At times it appears to be a deficit in themselves they are trying to fill with vicarious achievements. I’ve certainly seen this in dads with talented sports stars. They may have been okay at sport but they can live their dreams through their kids. They can’t of course, and they often drive their kids without mercy to do more, go faster, reach higher… In some cases things work out and the parent mellows, but not always.
And then there is the mirror image, where parents compare their children unfavourably with yours. Little Kevin can’t use the swing properly, but look how high yours is going! Then you have to reassure them, don’t worry about it… they will find their swing. This comes from anxiety, I think, the fear that comes with parenting that you aren’t doing it correctly. Where is the manual?
But my own feeling is that our system is at fault. We’ve let competition creep into every facet of our lives. We have to be on our game in every single area. Look at my job, my home, my car, my kids. Look at my achievements, look at theirs! They reinforce my greatness, or they carry me where I’m not so great. We have to stop this before we alienate our kids, destroy our relationships, make ourselves ill, and, ultimately, reduce our world to rubble…
Our children are not tools or trophies. They need our love and our time, and no amount of material things or achievements can substitute for that.
Trophy kids… just, no!
They are not commodities, freaks or oddities, they are a gift. They can lift our hearts, bring us joy, so just enjoy their pure existence. They represent persistence, resistance, they are the hope that helps us cope. Children need our time, our presence, our undiluted affection, some direction, but not control. They do not belong to us, we have to let that go.