I am guilty of it, perhaps you are also … and I wonder if we are taking away from our children the resilience to face life’s challenges, and, ultimately, the chance to live a fulfilled life.
I am referring to the help that we so often and so readily offer our children when we feel they need it.
We all want our children to live happy, secure lives, and it is natural that we want to help them when they stumble. In a lot of my interactions with my clients, our having established that we are on track with a workable financial plan, the conversation drifts to discussing the children and their financial preparedness for the rest of their lives.
The snagging spot is often, dare I say it, not the children, but well-meaning parents (I am not without blame here, I suspect!) who feel guilty if they are not helping their children overcome their (mostly, financial) difficulties. It so frequently seems that a parent’s way of showing love is by smoothing the path through challenges.
A recent book that cites on an ancient legend has created an epiphany for me!
The Voice of the Rising Generation by James Hughes et al. was an excellent read. The poem The Odyssey, composed by Homer almost 3,000 years ago, is woven throughout the authors’ message. They use the poem as an analogy, referring specifically to Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, and his life journey when he goes on a quest to find his wandering father, and, in the process, to find himself.
Meanwhile, Odysseus comes across an island of the Lotus-Eater people – this is the part that really resonated with me! On eating the Lotus, the islanders forgot all about any kind of personal desire to strive and struggle, and they became content to spend their lives grazing on the flower.
Do you see the lesson?
The authors contend that, where we have brought our children up with wealth, and possibly spoilt them, in the process, we have taken away from them the desire to rise up on their own, and live challenged and fulfilled lives. They, as it were, are feasting on the Lotus flower, all need to carve their own success undermined by the lethargy of aimlessness.
While these ‘privileged’ children may enjoy the ease that easy money buys them, at some stage I am sure that introspection will creep in, and the frustration of boredom and not being fully challenged will start to unsettle them. The spell of the Lotus flower will need to be broken in order for them to rise to live challenged lives, and not let complacency stagnate them. Questions will start to surface such as … Is this all there is to life? Could there be something more? What would that something look like?
Wealth can also make us forget why work is important (that sense of personal achievement), what authentic relationships are like and our dreams of being the best of us we can be.
For us to live fulfilled lives, we must break the spell of the Lotus flower and relish that sense of self-actualisation that comes from recognising and developing personal strengths that we harness to overcome our challenges.