The inspiration for this post came in the form of an incident that occurred at my son’s school and it involved the mother of one of his classmates. It reinforced to me the kind of parent I want to me.
FYI, this is going to be my first post on parenting. I know it does not fit with my other posts, but I’m a father. It is one of the most important, if not the most important part of who I am. Life is hard and being a parent is really fucking hard. I would put it up there with death, getting sick, and visiting my in-laws.
Shit is hard.
You know how on any of The Real Housewives they always have that one housewife who lasts 1 or 2 seasons, because their sole purpose is to stir shit up? They are in and out. That is this mom.
Most parents when the drop off their kids have to get to work, a yoga class or get home to catch the last 5 minutes of Kelly & Michael. Not this mom. She makes it her job when dropping off or picking up, to talk with any teacher, parent or kid that will listen to her hoping a situation manifests and she can create some drama.
Here is a recent example.
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime and this mom who prosecutes the offenders. These are their stories.
One day she witnessed a typical pre-school situation, as one kid grabbed another kid’s toy. Upon witnessing the event, rather than let the teacher handle it she immediately intervened. In her mind she came to the rescue of the poor kid who was about to lose his Dora the Explorer doll. Mind you the teacher was there and more than capable of handling it, but also relevant to the story is it did not even involve her kid.
After the event occurred she reported it only to the victim’s family, letting them know how fortunate they were she was there to consol and protect their child from this outrageous, egregious, and preposterous situation. You know the kind of event that occurs a hundred times a day at a pre-school.
She is an exasperating individual.
I would describe my parenting style as somewhat laissez-faire. On the parenting spectrum let’s say you have Nemo’s dad, Marlin from Finding Nemo on one end and Adam Sandler from Big Daddy on the other. I’m much closer to Mr. Sandler.
I don’t feel the need to totally smoother my child, in an attempt to prevent the inevitable hardships that life will throw his way. Maybe it is a dad thing or just a “me” thing, but when I see my son having a disagreement on the playground, it is not my style to run in and intervene immediately. Listen, I’m not going to let it come to blows, but I want him to learn on his own how to handle these types of situations without me.
Nowadays parents immediately race in, I feel like this voice goes off in their head shouting, “MOVE IN, MOVE IN, SWARM, SWARM” like they are about to bust down the door of a meth house.
I feel it is my job as parent to teach him how to be a good human being, and then set him loose in the world. I know if I do this he will fall and get hurt, but I’m far more concerned with how he gets back up. Parents, who effectively turn themselves into human bumper pads for their kids, never give them a chance to learn lessons that will ultimately serve them in life.
Will they experience pain? Yes
Will they experience disappointment? Yes
Will bad things happen? Yes
Will they fall down? Yes
But I’m more concerned as to how he gets up, brushes himself off and moves forward. If you spend all your energy trying to protect them from all the bad things in life, which is impossible, when they do get knocked down they might not want to get back up.
If you immediately rush to their rescue at the first sign of trouble, they never learn how to take their pain and turn it into triumph. Is there a more valuable life lesson then that?
When we get knocked down, it is how we get back up, that determines what kind of person we become.
A perfect example of this in a big picture sense is NYC post 9/11 and New Orleans post Katrina. Some of the most moving and inspirational moments from this catastrophe was to see people pull together and rebuild their city stronger and better than before.
Don’t we want to raise our kids in a way that when tragedy strikes, they come back bigger, better and stronger than they were before. I’ve always said in life you are either moving forward or you are moving backward, there is no neutral. It is the moments when life gets real, when life, lifes you, you the opportunity to do something great or get left behind.
It is these four things that guide me as a parent to my little guy.
- I want him to know he is stronger, smarter and more resourceful than he thinks. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. EVER.
- Failure is the only way you are going to succeed, so become really, really good at failing. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Screw up in front of people, the more the merrier.
- We are all connected, so treat people accordingly. When you see someone else hurting, help them back up. You not only help them but you help yourself and everyone else at the same time.
- Do something creative every day. Write, draw, build, or paint something.
I’m not one of those people arguing we are raising a bunch of wimps, but I do feel we run the risk of raising kids who might not know how to handle adversity.
I’m not sure if there is anything that scares me more than the thought of my son not following his dream, fulfilling his purpose in life because he is afraid of failing. The better he is able to handle adversity and failure the more likely he will find true happiness in life.
I want him to learn the lessons early that I’m learning now.
I was told for the longest time growing up; I was not smart, athletic or creative as other kids. Some kids were destined for success, to do great things, but not me. So don’t bother trying because you will only fail. Better to live a life of mediocrity then to risk looking like an idiot.
I don’t want my son to ever feel there is anything he can’t do, including failure. I want him to know he will fail and if he is lucky he will fail a lot, because each time he fails he gets closer to finding who he truly is.
Fail forward me little man. I will not always be there to catch you, but I know you are strong enough and brave enough get back up.