Every once in a while, I try to take a break from narrating and bookmarking your life, and instead I like to share some advice on life, based on what I, as your dad, am experiencing.
Here is one of those things I especially want you to remember from me:
You’re not entitled to much in this life.
See, I am a child of the Eighties. Born in 1981, I am the firstborn of Generation Y.
Growing up, I was told by everyone, including every adult I knew, that I could do and become anything I dreamed of and put my heart into.
And I bought it. After all, I heard it all the time!
Yes, I do indeed believe that you, my son, can do and become anything you dream of.
But at the same time, I don’t want you taking that as simply as I did.
Because then there’s a chance your dreams will remain dreams, if you do. There’s a chance you may believe that making dreams come true is actually easier than it is.
It’s not easy.
I had to work very hard (and very smart) to get where I am in life.
But I admit, something that life has taught me, especially since joining the career world nearly a decade ago, is that basically, I’m entitled to… not a lot.
I used to believe I deserved certain things in life. I believed that because (at least in my own mind) I’m a “good person,” that meant I would be the automatic recipient of a somewhat easier path to my definition of success.
It has only been in recent years that I fully realized and accepted this is not so easily the case. Sure, I’m special, as every person is, but as far as being entitled to things in life because of it, I’ve found more of the opposite to be true.
Because if everyone is special, then it takes a lot more work to prove that you, as an individual, really are that special. (Hence the concept behind American Idol.)
So I had to lower my expectations on certain things in life. That happened by me nixing the belief that I am entitled to anything.
In fact, what exactly am I entitled to? That’s a deep thought- and right now, I honestly don’t know the answer.
Life is challenging. But as long as I am here in this life, you will have me not only rooting you on, but being that (sometimes annoying) person to also show you the fundamentals on how to make your dreams come true.
Based on what I know, it has a lot to do with capitalizing on what you’re already best at, while at the same time overcoming the challenges (and fears) of your weaknesses and not letting them be the reason you don’t get what you want in life.
I also know a lot of success in life has to do with money management, not simply making money: It’s crucial to become debt-free, then save and invest your money for the rest of your life.
Back before you were of disciplining age, I was no skeptic of parents who refused to spank their child; in fact, I passionately mocked the idea of discplining without spanking.
I vehemently disagreed with Super Nanny’s approach.
“Time out? Yeah right. Like that does any good,” I would think to myself.
I believed that “non-spanking” was part of a liberal media agenda which led to uncontrollable children and even, overall, a higher crime rate for the adults who were not spanked as kids.
Then I changed my mindset. I stopped looking at opposing groups of people as “wrong” or “right,” based on their opinions. I stopped feeding into the polarization of America, based on our divided cultural leanings and preferences.
(Even to the point I now think Republicans and Democrats are equal. I realize it’s heresy to both sides to say that, though.)
But it’s true that I use to totally stereotype parents who didn’t spank their children.
I assumed that if a parent didn’t spank their child, they definitely didn’t effectively discipline them. Or it meant, in theory, they didn’t really discipline them at all.
Something that always kept me close-minded to the concept of discipline without spanking is a Bible verse (Proverbs 13:24) that I had always interpreted in a preconceived way:
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
I always took that to mean “the rod” (or the paddle, etc.) exclusively equalled discipline. In other words, I thought it would be impossible to properly discipline a child without ultimately resorting to spanking. But now, I read that verse differently:
My interpretation is, “It’s better to spank your child in an effort to discipline them, than to not discipline your child at all. But the main thing is, that you do discipline your child- not necessarily how you discipline them.”
Therefore, I totally don’t care how other parents discipline their children. I used to, but I’m way over that.
What I do care about is how I discipline you. And for Mommy and I, that means not resorting to spanking. For us, that’s what we feel is right for our family.
Again, I have completely neutral feelings about how other parents discipline their kids. I have no time to think or care about that. None of my business or concern. Complete Libertarian approach.
Mommy and I do our best to make sure that the little time we have together as a family is as quality time as possible.
We recognize that even the exact events that are intended to be exciting family adventures can end up taking away from quality time instead of enhancing it.
Knowing that we’ve got a fun road trip to Louisville coming up in just two weeks, we’re trying to make sure that this weekend and next are relatively chill.
It could be easy to assume that the low key events that take place on weekends like this would be somehwhat not that exciting for you.
But I can’t be too sure…
On Monday at your school, I saw on the wall a giant list entitled “What Do We Do With Our Families?”
As usual, you had perhaps the most seemingly random answer of all for the list:
“I go to Whole Foods and go to the pool with Daddy and Mommy!”
The pool part makes sense… but Whole Foods?
I thought it might truly just be nothing more than a random answer, but this reference to Whole Foods came up on again on Friday.
Mrs. Tonya, your school’s director, was telling me how you, the assistant director, and some of your friends were sitting at a table, pretending to be riding in a car.
When Ms. Lisa, the assistant director, asked where everyone wanted to go, the answers immediately starting coming in from your friends: to the playground, to the zoo, to play with toys, etc.
Then came your answer:
“Let’s go to Whole Foods!”
I imagine it was one of those moments where it was as if music was playing, then suddendly, the DJ stopped the vinyl record and everyone froze what their were doing, in an instant state of confusion.
Even if it seems to me like certain family activities would not be fun for you, like buying groceries with Mommy and Daddy at Whole Foods, there’s still a decent chance you may identify that event as the most exciting one there is.
Every morning as we’re getting ready to leave the house, one of the last things I do is put on your shoes.
Today, though, I came back from brushing my teeth to see you smiling on the stairs, with your new Sketchers already on.
In theory, I may have made a bigger of a deal out of it that necessary, but I had never considered that you could put your shoes on yourself.
I’ve always done that for you… everyday since I can remember.
You loved the fact you surprised me with this new skill of yours.
Then, shortly after, you sang your ABC’s all the way through, without messing up. That’s the first time I’ve heard you do that so flawlessly.
I’m proud of you. I just want to say that.
To be clear, I don’t just simply mean publicly. Sure, I’m proud of you like that, too.
But what I am really getting at is, privately, without the world watching or aware, I am proud of you.
As in, you make me proud, as my son.
I was thinking about this morning all day. During my lunch break, I stopped by Target to try to find you a 97 cent FJ Cruiser or Hummer; two SUV’s you are currently obsessed with.
You have way too many Hot Wheels cars already, but I just wanted to express my feelings to you. Turns out, I found neither car at the store, but just know I was so impressed by you that I at least tried.
Letting you know I’m proud of you is something I always want to keep at the forefront of our relationship. It’s important to me that you always know how I feel about you.
By now I’ve learned just to always keep the camera with us in the car. Otherwise, stories like this one wouldn’t have their proper illustrations.
It’s often during that early morning drive to school that your creative juices are flowing finest, as you attempt to entertain yourself (and accidentally, me as well) in the back of my Honda Element.
This morning, right after we had just passed the fire station with its two open garage doors, you began narrating the ad lib story about the white car (that was mine when I was a kid) and the red Jeep you were playing with.
“Hey, I have to go in the garage,” said the white car, voiced by you, speaking in falsetto, as you drove him up your left shorts leg.
Immediately following, the red Jeep announced he needed to go in the other side of the garage; which, you guessed it, was the up the other leg of your shorts.
As I mentioned yesterday, “ It’s like you get a thrill by taking strange objects outside of our house and into the real world… as a way to qualify their true existence.”
Therefore, before I dropped you off in your classroom this morning, you had to place your two cars in your cubby so they could be accessible the very moment you would see me again at the end of the day when I picked you up.
I should point out that the red Jeep has a driver, who we refer to “Ghost Man,” a plastic figurine you won as a prize at a Halloween festival last year.
Today when we got home, I asked you what Ghost Man did all day in your cubby.
You instantly and very sincerely responded, “He was good.”
Then I asked you what he ate for lunch. Your reply:
“Daddy, he was in the cubby all day!”
I’m not sure how you were so confident he was good all day if he wasn’t able to leave the cubby, not even to eat lunch.
But, hey, as long as you make up funny scenarios like a 2 car garage up your shorts or Ghost Man behaving well in your cubby all day, I’m going to keep asking you curious questions.