Together India Opal and Gloria Dump began planting a tiny three-leafed tree into the ground, species unknown. Opal asks Gloria what type of tree it will be when it grows up, what will it look like?
"It's a Wait and See Tree," explains Gloria. "We won't know what it is until it's all grown up." With that, they pat the soil firmly around their baby tree, sit back on their knees, and smile patient, contented smiles. Just have to wait and see.
When a child is born, it's like a Wait and See Tree from the pages of "Because of Winn-Dixie." Character, talents, abilities, looks, all are unknown until the child grows for several years. Some remain unknown until a full-fledged adult is realized. The wise parent, while giving all the wisdom, opportunity, and love they can, will take a wait and see attitude, rather than place expectations upon the child.
Some parents, however, can't stand the wait. Impatiently they begin the process of making a tightly-potted bonsai tree out of what is meant to be a giant, freely-growing redwood, or mighty oak, or white-barked aspen. Expectations are placed on the child, attempts are furiously made to form the child into a teeny replica of themselves, their fantasy selves, or into someone they believe typifies success. While still merely eating, sleeping, and needing fresh diapers, the child's life is planned, arranged, and forced. From the clothing chosen, to school registration, to lessons, hobbies, and activities expectations begin early.
I've known three-feet high children pressured to play what looked like toy violins, until they 'graduated' to full-sized instruments after years of torturous lessons. I've been told they loathed the lessons and resultant practice, that they missed riding bikes and playing street hockey with their friends, or reading, or exploring the garden. Rather than wait and see, the parents of these children chose to see in their children what they wanted to see, and wait for the youngsters to develop according to a pre-conceived vision. The vision never came to fruition. The violin was tossed as soon as the child, after over ten years of enforced lessons, had the gumption to stand up for himself and declare that he really hated violin, and wasn't too fond of music anymore either.
I've known newly-standing, teetering toddlers who were continually dressed in clothes representing daddy's favorite team or sport. At four and five they were loaded down with unwieldy equipment, expected to learn to throw and catch, skate and whack, kick and carry them proficiently, often taught by parents who are either quite good at the sport, or disappointedly incompetent, living vicariously through their miniscule offspring. While young, these kids gleefully pranced around pretending to be the BEST at whichever sport they were saddled with in order to watch their parent smile in delight. The parents saw what they wanted to see, a child headed for greatness and fame, when the reality was a child afraid to upset his folks, a child trying to please his parents, a child striving to keep the status quo because to upset it, would be to upset their entire world.
But oh, the sadness when the ability does not match the vision. Upside-down world. Frustration. Red, shaking faces. Hot tears streaking through dust. The final deadening blow? The dreaded.........disappointment.
I know adults who practically go into spasms at the mention of certain sports because of the sort of trauma just described. I know adults who hate to read, actually have not read anything for pleasure since they left their parents' control, because they were forced by parents to read and report on books they hated, the ancient, long, detailed, dry, dusty sort which have a particular audience.
I know adults who honestly feel like failures simply because they don't meet the expectations of their parents. Life is lived with a specter riding their shoulders, telling them that no matter how much joy they may derive from their personal choices, they are never good enough because Mommy or Daddy wanted them to be a baseball star, an accountant, a doctor, lawyer, preacher, fireman, model, engineer, corporate big-wig, or enter the family business.
On the flip-side are those who DID follow the life-plan created and chipped into stone while they were still toothless and hairless. The specter to these grown children tauntingly whispers the could-have-beens, the should-have-beens, the precious, personal hopes and desires starved and boxed up, set aside so that a parent's aspirations could be realized instead. Realized, yes, and resented. For the one who is sold another's dream, never holds his own.
For me, as a parent, sure, I momentarily dipped my toe into those expecting waters. But all it took for me to step back and take the wait and see position was viewing my child's normally wide-eyed face contorted and clouded. It was quite apparent that my plans were not matching his nature.
When opportunities are given gently without coercion, a child naturally becomes what he is meant to be, roots spreading deep and wide, freely wandering and drinking up life. When forced, they become potted bonsais, their shape and care dependent on mommy and daddy's expectations and constant coddling, for they know not who they are, or from what they have been restrained.
Dependence breeds dependence. Independence breeds freedom.
Better for the growth of a child to Wait and See.