Think back to when you were ten. What grade were you in? What kind of things did you like to do? What did you want to be when you grew up?
If I remember clearly, I was in Garden City, Kansas finishing up my 4th grade of elementary school. I enjoyed reading Goosebumps by R.L. Stein, collecting Pogs but having no real idea what to do with them, and being a fiercely competitive recreation soccer player. I enjoyed playing B.O.B. on my Sega Genesis.
I had dreams of being an airline pilot or possibly a writer. I thought very little of the world around me. Women were suddenly becoming more interesting and the only expectations I remember having were to come home promptly and to stay out of trouble at school.
Now, instead of 1994, let’s pretend it’s 1777 and look at the expectations a mother had of her 10 year old son:
You are in possession of a natural good understanding and of spirits unbroken by adversity, and untamed with care. Improve your understanding for acquiring useful knowledge and virtue, such as will render you an ornament to society, an honor to your country, and a blessing to your parents…and remember you are accountable to your Maker for all your words and actions.
This was an excerpt from a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her 10 year old son, John Quincy, before he left with his father to cross the Atlantic to keep his father company as he negotiated with France.
Are you kidding me? Could you imagine being interrupted by your mom while playing Playstation and being told travel across the ocean to a foriegn country in order to acquire useful knowledge that would enable you to become an ornament to society? Could you even begin to understand what was being asked of you at such a young age? Could you internalize it? Strive for it? Could you handle such lofty expectations?
Obviously, he could as he went on to not only be President, but one of our most experienced and respected diplomats in the history of our country. We owe a great deal to Abigail and her high standards. (As a side note, she is a woman of such impeccable character and remarkable intelligence that if I have a daughter one day, I want to name her Abigail).
Maybe we could all stand to adjust the expectations we have of our children and ourselves. Who knows what good could come from it?