Raising Your Kids to Eventually Support You

I had a thought experiment that I wanted to throw out there, get your take on, Jeff. It goes something like this. If there was a date set, maybe 20 years from now, when you had to legally surrender all your possessions, everything you cared about, and you had to deliver the rest of your life into the care of your child, that small child that maybe is two or three years old, that you’re holding in your arms today, how would that impact your parenting? I wanted to think about this because I think that this is the way that ancient people thought about parenting. I think the way that we think about parenting is totally different. We know that it’s really healthy and helpful to begin with the end in mind. I think most Western parents begin with the end in mind of, I want my child to be happy. That’s what they’re thinking.

Instead of, oh my gosh, my child is going to be responsible for leading the family into the future, responsible for my care, and the care of their mother, and maybe leading their siblings. These were the kinds of thoughts that really motivated the parenting of ancient families. By ancient, I mean, most families until the last hundred years. So, how would that impact the way that you thought about raising your children? How does that impact the parenting strategies you might use? As I look at the way we think about parenting, the strategies that we consider, or the strategies that we choose not to use, they seem to be related to this idea of, I want my child to be happy in the future. I’m assuming that I’m not going to actually need to depend on my kids ever. In fact, we make it a goal in our culture to not have to depend on our children at all. We think that’s good parenting. I think this is really impacting in subtle, but very profound ways, the strategies we’re using for parenting. But, Jeff, what are your thoughts about that?

Yeah. That’s a really good point. I love thought experiments like that too because it makes you back up from the end and realize, oh, what am I marching towards? What am I creating towards? And I think you’re right. I think there is a level of… And this is an axiom, again, that’s also been true historically of, we’re not saying to not make your kids happy or to not give them happiness or blessing, but the truth that philosophers have seen over and over, and again, it’s just, if we would actually believe it, is don’t chase that and it happens. You know what I mean?

Right. The byproduct.

It’s like the classic C. S. Lewis quote, where he’s like, “If you chase first order things, then you get second, third order things thrown in. If you chase second order things, you miss both.” And what he’s basically talking about there is like, chase purpose, chase meaning, chase story, chase the really big things that life really matters, which happiness is not in there, and you almost always get that tossed in. This is a very similar part of that conversation that when you let those leapfrog each other, a lot of damage happens, and that’s basically the American narrative. Almost all American damage, modern Western damage can be traced to this concept of immediate pleasure, happiness, blessing, and goodness right away, and it short circuits the process rather than all of those things are byproducts, not things you should ever chase ultimately. And so, yeah. I think that principle plays deeply into this, for sure.

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