We were discussing a recent article we read over dinner one day — in the article, one of the common regrets cited by retirees was over-spending on their children’s education and enrichment activities. That got us thinking about our plans for Isaac and what we really want if we did spend anything on “education and enrichment”.
And the truth is, children are terrible investments. If the purpose of sending your children to the costliest pre-school, to the mostest and bestest enrichments there ever were, is to hothouse them into some kind of super-genius over other children, then the vast majority of parents will be disappointed. Because if giftedness and genius is determined on a scale — like it is in our society — then only a small percentage of children will ever be that. Perhaps in a time when most children do not go for such enrichment, then those parents who did send their children may see their children getting an edge over others. But by now, it feels more like an education arms race where everyone is going for everything just to keep up. And then, if the ultimate game of nurturing super-genius children is for them to be financially and materially successful in the future, all the more parents may find themselves disappointed — because who knows what the future holds and what makes success decades later?
I told Ning, what I want, is to give Isaac a life of beautiful things. I don’t care if the classes I send him for, the money I spend on him, makes him any more intelligent, or likely to be wealthy and famous and successful in the future. I care that he loves the world more, becomes a happier, and a kinder person as a result.
What is beautiful in this world? Science is beautiful, mathematics is beautiful — the deep eternal truths about the universe, and how an apple always fall down from a tree. That in every place in every time on this planet you can create crafts to ride the waves and sail the skies from these truths, that is beauty. That is what I want Isaac to appreciate and love and learn.
What is beautiful in this world? Language is beautiful, art is beautiful, music is beautiful — the changing truths found in words and sounds and colours. That in every time and every place, someone will always come upon the same notes may love or abhor them, that two persons who love the same words may not love them the same, that the same person chancing on the same painting can be touched in different ways. That is beauty in a kaleidoscope.
And what of these beautiful things? They are things that are indivisible, that we do not possess in the way we possess material things. I don’t want to give Isaac a car, or a house, or a large bank account. I want to give him wealth in the way he views and engages with the world, the way he sees and appreciates it. I want to give him the eyes and ears and heart and mind to be open to all the beauty that already is, all around him. That is the infinite infinite riches that he does not have to fight with anyone else for.
And that is why I want him to go to a school that lets him play, messily, with scrapes and falls and bruises, openly, without a curriculum. That is why I want him to know art, and music, and poetry, and sports.
This having-children thing, it’s a terrible investment to begin with. Icky financial calculations aside, I think the secret sorrow and sacrifice of every parent, is to know that their child would never love them as passionately or profoundly as they do their children. But my child is a beautiful thing. I want to give him a life of beautiful things — but also, he already is the beautiful thing in my life.