This year thanks to the Sprouts serving as “visit bait” I got to spend Father’s Day with my Dad. It’s been a long time since that happened. It was especially good timing.
I’m sure it is no surprise but I’ve been spending some time thinking about what it means to be a good Dad. The natural first place I turned to contemplate that is the family I grew up in. When looking at my upbringing I started out with a very logical question.
“What could my folks have done better?”
I immediately discovered a pretty serious problem. I don’t really see meaningful room for improvement on my parents. I grew up knowing I was loved, they made time for my sister and I, took us on adventures, shared their thoughts about the world, and worked hard to provide stability, security and support. If I can hit that same mark I’m going to be pretty proud of myself!
It’s really a shame that growing up I had no concept of just how good I had it. I took it for granted pretty much the whole way. (Sorry Mom and Dad.) I didn’t figure it out until I got out in the world and saw the nut-cases some of my friends grew up with. Yeeesh!
I can’t get away with just copying my parents though. Things will be different with the Sprouts. The world has changed with new opportunities and risks. Jalaine and I are different people. Alivianna and Alexander are different than Kara and I were.
My overarching goal will be to hit the high bar set by my parents if I’m lucky. The specifics will be different but I hope the outcome will be the same in terms of what the sprouts can say about Jalaine and I.
Mixed in with the ideals from my folks I have a couple specific items on my parenting “to-do list”:
- Get the Sprouts out into different cities around the world. Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and other famous international places are exotic-sounding but fundamentally they are just “other places people live”. Knowledge can destroy the romantic image of a place in a hurry but it also allows for an appreciation in a reality-based way. The world is truly open to the Sprouts and I would like to help them be comfortable out in it if I can. (Fun fact: There is something called “Paris Syndrome” which is tourists having a mental breakdown when their imagined Paris doesn’t exist. There can be the same problem for folks going to Jerusalem and other places that can’t possibly meet expectations.)
- Encourage them to be technically literate. It is entirely possible that the Sprouts will never bother getting a driver’s license. Self-driving cars are coming along fast enough that 16 years out they might be fairly common. Hard to imagine right? As that skill potentially fades out as a fundamental adult ability, another may be taking it’s place. Navigating the streets will give way to navigating and understanding the technologies that make our world run. The degree to which our lives are determined and guided by software, apps and (whatever terms are used to describe them in the future) is only growing. Intuitively understanding systems provides a key advantage when managing society, government/corporate bureaucracy and creating whatever lifestyle the Sprouts someday want for themselves. At the very least it can help to inoculate them against the most common forms of manipulation used by these systems when it comes to marketing and other types of behavior modification at a subconscious level. Using our cognitive biases against us isn’t new but we’re a lot better at it now with new tools. I know. It’s part of what I do for a living. (Terminology heavy there. Sorry.)
- Try to figure out how to help the Sprouts find the self-confidence and courage to aggressively pursue their dreams. Those traits mainly come from within but to the extent possible I would sure like to help. A major hope I have for them is that they will “go for it” where “it” is whatever moves them deeply. If that means Alexander wants to be a neurosurgeon or stay at home Dad it’s cool with me as long as it is where his heart lies. Same for Alivianna. She can run off to Sweden to be the lead singer in a Scandinavian Death-Metal Band or become the CFO of a major corporation. “To Thine Own Self Be True” I hope will rule their choices. My biggest fear is that one or both of them will just limp along through life following the path of least resistance and leading lives of “quiet desperation”. Or, as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it. “Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them.” I’ll do my best to help the Sprouts sing. If they won’t sing I’ll still love them like crazy anyway. I’m their DAD. 🙂
That last point creates a minor problem. What if someone asks me:
“So hotshot, are YOU singing?”
I’m not sure I can say yes 100%. I need to work on that. What would your answer be? If not yes, I hope you have the space in your life to do whatever you need to do in order for your answer to change.
Bonus picture for scrolling. (Let’s be honest. Who has time to read all that?)