Recently, I was reading about a family determined to pay off their mortgage early. They decided to postpone a vacation to Disney World, which the mother said was an important sacrifice to make, even though “it kills me to think that my 3-year-old is missing out on that experience.”
Never mind that a 3-year-old wouldn’t remember a thing about a Disney vacation a year from now.
Never mind that a 3-year-old would be equally delighted to blow bubbles in the driveway and get a pudding pop.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with Disney World. But my mother antennae are starting to go up because I’m detecting that we have a serious cultural problem with FOMO.
Except the fear of missing out isn’t for us, it’s for our kids.
Since when did childhood become a checklist of “experiences”? We’re approaching parenting as if it’s some sort of accelerated enrichment course, and our grade depends on the number of “experiences” (often elaborate and expensive ones) we’ve furnished for our children.
I know we came to this place out of love for our kids, but it’s got to stop. The goal of parenting is not to produce 18-year-olds with a fully checked-off bucket list.
We are stressing ourselves out and giving ourselves FOMO by making parenting about making sure the kids do all the things, visit all the places, and have all the fun — all before they’re old enough to open their own bank account.
But we don’t have to try to pack an entire lifetime of experiences into 18 years. Our job, our real job, is to make our kids feel safe and loved. That’s it.
If you want to go on fancy vacations and you can afford it, then do it. It’ll be fun. But please don’t feel like your kid is missing out. There is no official list of things they must do or see in order to have a good childhood.
Remember that you are raising children, not building a résumé.
Orchestrating a series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for kids in’t the goal of parenting. Raising well-rounded, secure, healthy people is the goal, and there are many ways to do that — both ones that do and don’t include a trip to Disney World.
Not all of the experiences that develop your child’s character can be found on a list of 101 Amazing Things Your Kids Must Do Before They Grow Up.
So maybe the things that end up shaping your kids’ lives will be cheaper, closer to home, and in a word, ordinary.
Maybe their “what I did over my summer vacation” essay when they go back to school in the fall will sound less impressive than their classmates’.
Because of money, distance, family circumstances, or a hundred other reasons, your kids are going to “miss out” on a good number of things we wish they could experience.
That really doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. Because if your kids know what it feels like to grow up loved, then you’re already giving them the most important experience of all.