Hello friends! Kate here. I hope you're all doing well. In February, one of the Power Naps shared a few quotes, articles, and books Nate found on parenting. (In case you don’t know, the Power Nap is a short, weekly email that links anything big I talked or wrote about, as well as funny or interesting articles, books, movies, podcasts, quotes, etc. that Nate, Jess, or I flagged. You can sign up through the button below to start getting it.)
Anyways, people really liked the newsletter and some of the things Nate shared. We thought it would be fun to have in “guest write” for The Nap Times and share some quotes and ideals he has liked thus far on his parenting journey. Without further ado, here's Nate…
Hey everyone. Nate here. I am no “expert” on parenting. I have no degrees and, honestly, I’ve read very few books on the subject. I have four kids, but the oldest is seven. There are a myriad of issues that we haven’t had to deal with yet, and the vast majority of the “tough” ones are ahead, not behind. The following paragraphs are not meant to be any form of prescriptive advice, but rather a list of quotes, articles, and thoughts that have shaped the way I currently think about parenting. I like to believe that many of these could change, expand, or grow firmer roots as my kids get older. With that said, take what feels helpful to you and leave what doesn’t.
“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” – Abraham Lincoln
I read this article a few years back on snowplow parenting. To summarize: In the twentieth century, the buzz word was “helicopter parenting.” The parent(s) “hovered” around their children, monitoring every aspect of their lives. In the last decade or so, helicopter parenting gave way to “snowplow parenting,” where parents literally remove obstacles from a child’s path so that the road is always straight and smooth. If a child is having an issue with a classmate, they send an email or text to the teacher or the other child’s parent and, boom, the problem is fixed. In isolation, there is of course nothing wrong with this. The problem is when it becomes a way of life. Before long, parents are running forgotten assignments into school, emailing with coaches about playing time, fretting over where their child will go to middle school or who their teacher will be next year, dictating what extracurriculars they select to enhance their college resume, tracking them with GPS, and basically micromanaging every aspect of their lives, usually with an eye towards sports success or getting them admitted to the right college.
The problem is that while snowplow parenting can lead to success in “resume virtues” (prestigious degrees, sports championships, fancy internships), it usually leads to failure when measured by “eulogy virtues” (things that matter over the course of a life and are generally talked about in your eulogy: things like honesty, kindness, humility, and wisdom). What snowplow parenting misses with respect to those things, and what the Abe Lincoln quote above is getting at, is that character is forged from failure. Wisdom comes from learning the right lessons from mistakes. Kids need to do their own “growing” to develop the belief in their own abilities to complete a task, reach a goal, or handle a difficult situation. And after all, isn’t that what being an adult is? As Julie Lythcott-Haims put it: “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid.” There are absolutely times when parents need to step in. Bullying can cause kids to suffer anxiety and depression and lead to dark places. Sometimes parents need to step in and stop it. But sometimes kids just need to work things out themselves, even if (especially if?) it takes time to do so. We need to be parents who are wise enough to be patient, realizing that parenting is a long game and that character can only be built the same way Hadrian planned to rebuild Rome (“brick by brick, my citizens, brick by brick.”).
“There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great. The spirit of the early century produced great men, because it believed that men were great.” – GK Chesterton, in his biography on Charles Dickens
My dad passed away in February 2020, a few weeks before COVID rocked the world. He for sure had his issues when it came to parenting. But one thing he really got right, in my view, was that he believed in me and he genuinely liked me. He thought I was “great.” He wanted to be where I was and do what I was doing. To his last day, if you told him he could have dinner with anyone in America, I feel confident I would have been high on his list. And that belief empowered me all of my life. It allowed me to believe that I was someone who could find a way – that I “had what it took.” It raised my aspirations. And it gave me confidence, and that confidence gave me the courage to face the difficulties that life inevitably brings. Whether it was transferring colleges, deciding to marry young, going to law school, having multiple kids, choosing to take a low paying job out of college, spending a summer overseas. He trusted that I was competent, that I knew what I was doing, and that I had the tools to succeed in a variety of circumstances. I learned from him that a father simply believing in his son can be extraordinarily empowering.
“While there is always another news article or scientific fad proclaiming the importance of some factor or other, it’s easy to miss the bigger picture: that children are smarter, more resilient, and more independent than we give them credit for.” – Robert and Sarah Levine
In Japan, a boy sleeps in his parents’ bed until age ten, but still shows independence in all other areas of his life. In rural India, toilet training begins one month after infants are born and is accomplished with little fanfare. In Paris, parents limit the amount of agency they give their toddlers. In America, parents grant them ever more choices, independence, and attention. Given our approach to parenting, is it any surprise that American parents are too frequently exhausted? [The Levines] have consistently found that children can be happy and healthy in a wide variety of conditions, not just the effort-intensive, cautious environment so many American parents drive themselves crazy trying to create.
This so aptly encapsulates the struggle of so many of us in America: We are exhausted trying to keep up with the latest “news article or scientific fad” or sleep training method or nutritional advice or screen time study or school board decision or car seat safety enhancement or club soccer team or what-have-you. Again, that’s not to say that those things don’t matter. But generally, what I think most parents reading this (myself included!) need to hear is:
Love your child, enjoy your child, believe in your child.
Give them room to make mistakes, and be there for them when they fail.
Alright everyone! Kate here again. Thank you all so much for reading along and continuing to support this newsletter that has become so beloved to me. Please always feel free to email us with any thoughts you may have!