There are certain things a parent should be expected to pass on to their kids. Team allegiances. Curiosity. Respect. Proper flash card study habits. Lawrence Welk on lazy Sunday afternoons. An irrational love of Prince. The basic underpinnings of a happy life.
Parents should be careful however, not to pass on their fears. Fear is the killer of inquisitiveness. Kids are largely innocent. For better or worse, they just don’t know. Fear colors that curiosity with something darker. I might be afraid of heights. Or small spaces. Or pre-teen Disney stars. But that’s me, not them.
Cecilia survived jazz improv camp. She even let it slip she might go next year. I played trumpet for eight years and never soloed. I might have been afraid, but she’s not.
Family weddings can be both joyous and bittersweet. Joyous to celebrate with family and friends but bittersweet to be reminded how cruelly and quickly time can move. How do you capture and appreciate those moments? Is it even possible? Or is this just something you have to accept. A life fully lived will always feel like its moving too fast. It will be full of joy and laced with sadness. That is the definition. You can’t fight against it.
But why fight it? Perhaps accepting that this is how life is and always will be is what allows you to drive a stake through those big moments and be present.
For all my indoor cat tendencies, I do like to plant a vegetable garden each year. With summer vacation a short half day away on Tuesday, the girls will be helping me more this year.
Forget about getting a puppy or other pet to teach kids responsibility, planting a garden is a much cheaper and just as effective way to teach kids long lasting life lessons: planning, prepping, growing, waiting. Really, if I could just work in flash cards….
In the book, Outdoor Kids in an Inside World, Steve Rinella has a chapter on the lessons families can learn from gardening. Like the best advice, it doesn’t need much space:
Through our actions, we have the power to make things thrive.
Neglect is deadly.
Sort of applies to a bountiful garden or…being a good parent.
Yesterday, I finished my first year as a dance Dad. I have one week off before I trade my dance Dad chauffeur hat for my camp counselor t-shirt. I will relish this calm logistical calendar week.
But summer will also bring the nagging parental worries of how much to nudge them to read or practice and how much to just let them take a break. How much of that school year momentum should we keep? There will be no flash cards. I’m not a complete zealot. But should there be some time set aside to read? Or work on math or Spanish?
Summer or not, there is always so much to do and the kids remain so bad at most of it. Where does a parent draw the line? How do you know where to help, when to help, what to handle for them, what to tell them doesn’t matter and they don’t have to worry about?
I guess I have a whole summer to try to figure it out.
A better week but still not easy. One bright spot? This NPR interview with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day author Judith Viorst. Like all the great children’s books there are layers of meaning that can aid both adult and child. One of the reasons I love this book is that there is no judgment of Alexander’s behavior.
As a Dad, I often to want to correct things or make things better for the girls. That’s not always possible as Alexander reminds us. And that’s OK. Sometimes it’s good and necessary to just sit with our emotions. The current always-on, look-over-here, life hack culture makes this difficult (by design). But it’s important to remember that you don’t always need to immediately fix something and that having a bad day is a (necessary) part of life.
It was a long, rough week, both nationally and locally. Near and far brought news where answers or the right words were near impossible. Most of the time I felt frozen in anger, frustration, and sorrow where action and change were far out of reach.
What do you possible say to your children other than the truth and provide as much love and support as you can?
Epictetus said, as you tuck your children in whisper to yourself ‘They may be gone in the morning.’
That feels like a brutal slap in the face but as we’re confronted with almost each day, life is fleeting and the world is cruel. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. So it’s not a slap but a daily and realistic reminder not to waste a single second of our time. It is one small thread of clarity that can come from tragedy: be present, be loving, be forgiving.
It can all go away in a blink. There’s nothing we can do other than be what they need right now. Right this second.
The girls are both old enough now where their traits, dispositions, and temperaments are more formed. As a Dad, I am less inclined to shrug it off as a phase. I also have to confront the fact that the girls will not be exactly like me. (Except for the Yankees thing. I won’t bend on that.)
They will not make the same choices or walk the same path. They might (and likely will) make decisions and do things that will baffle me. But that’s okay. Maybe that’s for the best. I was a conformist kid that looked to fit in. And I did a pretty good job. I loved my flash cards. School and tests were a natural second language. But there are certainly more ways to contribute in this world than the easiest, most obvious, and most traditional ways.
But not everyone is built that way and as a Dad, I need to protect and guard against the girls feeling any shame about that. In fact, I often look back and regret I didn’t make bolder or less expected choices. Risk and I are not on a first name basis.
Some are meant to be artists. Some are meant to be quiet, solitary geniuses. Some are meant to be extroverts or iconoclasts. Some are meant to be late bloomers.
There are so many ways to make a difference in this world. As a Dad, my job is to help them by being who they were meant to be…and nothing else.