How do we decide what to teach our children? How do we determine what’s important, what matters? Societal norms dictate a big part of that. Commonplace acts like saying “please” and “thank you” or telling Grandma you love the hideous sweater she just gave you aren’t innately human but constructs of the human community that must be learned. Manners are something every child should be taught at a very young age and are universally accepted as normal.
But what about the other stuff?
Do you actively teach your child to vote for a particular political party? What do you tell your daughter the first time she sees a homeless man panhandling on a street corner? What do you tell your son when his first girlfriend decides it’s time to end things? How much freedom do you give them to make their own mistakes? For the most part, the answers to these questions lie in your own mind and are driven by individual circumstances. But chances are you will draw on your own personal experiences when the time comes to start doling out advice.
I had one such experience a little less than three months ago. (For those following along at home, that’s right around the time my very first blog post went up.) Ok, I guess the experience started back in March and I’m still working through it now, but who’s counting? I started a new job at the end of February. My previous employer’s relocation out of state was imminent, and I was simply not willing to move with a company I felt was trending in the wrong direction, both in terms of geography and executive leadership. So after nearly a year of churning out resumes I landed a new position full of promise. Career advancement, better benefits, and new experiences were all on the horizon.
Fast forward to July and the grass is still greener than it was before, but the whole picture just isn’t as vibrant. I wasn’t sure exactly what was missing, but something just didn’t feel right. So after a three-year hiatus, I decided to start writing again. Wife and I were talking one evening and I made a snap decision to follow through with an idea I’d been toying with for months: I decided to start a blog. There was no waffling, no hemming and hawing, no indecision. I just did it and never looked back. From there it didn’t take me long to realize what was missing from my day job: passion.
My work gets done and I’m pretty good at what I do, but digging through spreadsheets full of eight-figure numbers just doesn’t stoke my internal flames the way filling a blank page with original ideas does. And it took me a long time to reach that realization. I’ve always enjoyed writing in one form or another. Whether it was getting more excited than necessary about creative writing prompts in grade school, my brief foray into journaling in high school, or the pages and pages of stories I started and never finished three years ago, writing is something I’ve always come back to.
I tell you all of this partly as a personal exposition, but mostly as one of the myriad lessons that I hope to teach my sons far sooner than I learned myself. Because that’s what parenting is all about. The journeys we take through childhood and adolescence inevitably lead us through forests of self-doubt, over mountains of mistakes, and beneath oceans of lessons learned too late. But if you have children, you have a chance at a mulligan, albeit a vicarious one. You can turn your own should haves and might’ve beens into your children’s that was awesomes and I’m glad I did thats. You can push them to chase their writing dreams, to try out for the baseball team, to never settle for an unfulfilling job. If, that is, you can get them to listen to what you have to say.