In Henry IV, Part II, Act III, Scene 1, William Shakespeare wrote a line that should be forever tattooed on the foreheads of every child. Okay, perhaps “tattooed” is a bit strong.
Allow me a moment to pause so that I may make it perfectly clear that I’m not proposing any form of child abuse. Nor am I advocating that parents should literally tattoo Shakespeare’s words or any other words, for that matter, any place on their children’s body.
Instead, what I’m suggesting is that parents repeat one special quote to our children so often that it feels for them as if it has been tattooed on the inside of their heads. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown are words that should be the chorus to our children’s life.
As if children were superheroes with their own theme song, children should hear uneasy lies the head that wears a crown from the moment they awake to the moment they fall asleep. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown should be embedded at the deepest levels of their subconscious.
YOUR WANTS CAN HURT
In Henry IV, the quote uneasy lies the head that wears a crown references the challenges and difficulties of being a king. However, beyond being classic literature, the quote has common and practical application for those of us who were unfortunately born outside of the royal family. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown is a timely and useful reminder about one of the more important aspects of success and happiness – knowing and respecting the eternal link that exists between privilege and obligation.
I was introduced to the “eternal link” many years ago. During my youth, seemingly almost every time that I wanted my mother to do or buy something for me, she gave me what is best described in today’s technological terms as an automated response. More often than I cared to hear, the first words out my mom’s mouth were “your wants can hurt”. In my mom’s own way, she was introducing me to the phrase uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Like most children, I had lofty expectations about the privileges I should enjoy. Fortunately for me, my mother knew that I was unready to meet the challenges or fulfill the obligations connected with those privileges. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, understood the price that would have to be paid to do or give me what I wanted. In hindsight, I later understood that when she would say “your wants can hurt” she was doing son in an effort to save me from injuring myself.
My mom knew that I would fall short (mentally, emotionally and probably physically) of meeting my obligations and that the fall would be unnecessarily painful. Thus, she wisely and repeatedly uttered “your wants can hurt”. I don’t even know if my mom is a fan of Shakespeare but in her own Shakespearean way, my mother was the first one to teach me about the meaning behind uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS A CROWN
Generally, children are no different today than when I was a child. Back in my day as it is now, children want to feel loved and they want to have a good life. Many children want much more. Children, like my son, understand that they have the opportunity to live a great life. However, every now and then, all children including my own Benevolent King, have to be reminded that with privilege comes obligation.
This week join me in taking a few minutes to share with our children the eternal link between privilege and obligation. Let’s let our children know that there is a phrase we plan to automatically express whenever they ask for something beyond a basic human need (food, water, shelter, and clothing) – uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
DON’T BE SCARED, YOU CAN DO IT
In the event that you need a few talking points to get the conversation going or an outline to stay on track during what could be an emotional conversation, I have listed a few things that I believe you’ll want to mention:
1. Uneasy – Make sure your child understands that enjoying privileges should make them feel just a little bit anxious. The goal isn’t to make your child feel guilty or paranoid about the prospects of losing their privileges any more than they should exhibit arrogance or feel like enjoying privilege is a birthright.
Rather, we want our children to understand that there is an optimal “uneasy” place where they should reside – a destination found somewhere between relaxation and fret. A place adults commonly call “humility”.
2. Not Yet The Head– Express to your child that, for now, they are merely the prince or princess. To borrow one of my father’s common expressions, “you have to pay the cost to be the boss”.
Reiterate for your children that the foundation for their privileges is most often rooted in the blood, sweat, and tears of their parent’s and/or ancestor’s efforts and sacrifices. Leave it unquestionably clear that until they have their own home, you remain the King and/or Queen of the castle.
3. Crown – Everyone wants the crown. Similar to the crown that is worn on the head, only two things generally happen when anyone reaches the top. People below you will look and admire what you have accomplished or people below you will watch and eagerly wait for you to come tumbling down. It is worth noting that the world can be cruel and people largely prefer gloom over glee.
For this reason, it is essential that you convey to your child that the view (not to be mistaken with opinions) others have of them is largely in their control. If they abide by the eternal link of privilege and obligation they will generally reach and stay on top. Thus, people will continue to admire, respect and esteem them. However, if they aren’t willing to abide by the “eternal link”, well they may already be on their way down. “Look out below!!!!”
At the end of the day, if you are anything like me, I know that you want to make sure that your children understand what my mother wanted me to know long ago. You want your children to appreciate everything and every opportunity they have. You want your children to understand how hard you work to provide the things they need and take nothing for granted. Finally, you want your children to know uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Do you ever feel like your children take their life for granted? What else can parents do to help children appreciate the link between privilege and obligation?