Success is what children want from grown-ups. Children desire success for grown-ups because the big people clear the path for children to walk until they walk on their own. However, the measuring stick of success from a child’s perspective is very different from common adult standards. Children expect us to be successful at being ourselves.
Children don't typically struggle at being themselves. They struggle to keep their humanity of expressing feelings, needs, desire, longings, hope, and imagination as they get older. We, the adults, are the ones who claw at perfection. Children, on the contrary, don't despair and resign when they cannot achieve perfection. Sure they cry about beauty ending and fun coming to an end, but they don't despise those feelings that express care. We adults seek perfection to avoid the inevitable pain of life. The humility of being human is a child's standard, not the perfection of escaping humanity.
Children come into this life with a complete package of feelings to express the heartache of limitation—living in a broken place with eternity in our hearts. Children cry in sadness, cry out in hurt, squeal with delight in joy, run to safety in fear, seek another in loneliness, pursue a dream with anger. They bring these responses to us, believing that we understand enough to relate the story of life and its experiences. Instead, we often hand them a stone when they seek bread. We tell them how not to let life “bother” them, rather than joining them in the story of how life hurts and how to live the pain of love.
Feelings are always the antidote to adult cynicism.
Children literally depend on us to be human enough to support their experiences rather than shame them for their humanity. Their trust in our human experience, for better or worse, becomes the way they build a map for navigating life.
Children expect grownups to be tough enough to hope and courageous enough to stay and show them the way to be enough, too. They want us to “do” human well; they want us to be of the same substance as them, except experienced and made wiser in a way that will help them keep their hope alive. A child's marker of success is the hard-won standard of surrender to “good enough,” not the self-congratulatory standard of “trying hard for perfection.”
Children believe that we are the grown-up hero and heroine versions of themselves. They believe we are enough. Success to them is having us show them how to remain human. We feel, need, desire, long and hope, just like they do. That is enough. You are enough.