Hello! You can read the blog below. To watch the video, click on the picture above. The video is of my son Nick and I taking a risk of a lifetime – skydiving on his 18th birthday! He had talked about it for years, so when the 18th year arrived, we both jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (Please excuse the watermark – my video subscription expired and I need to renew!)
Why Ships Are Built By Heroes And Other Insights To Being A Dad
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
~ Albert Einstein
I was born a risk taker. I was also born with a brain of an infant. Those two things have more in common than what you might think. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, our brains aren’t fully developed until we reach the age of 25. But I’m pretty sure the National Institute of Health has never met some of my friends who are well over the age of 25. At least they’ve never met on purpose.
I think it goes without saying that some of our biggest moments in life involve the biggest risks. Points in case:
- Getting our drivers license
- Choosing college, or not, and a career, or not
- Reaching the age when you’re old enough to drink, and pay more taxes
- Getting married
- Getting divorced
- Purchasing a car or a home
- Choosing a religion or belief system, or not
- Deciding to drink the water in some foreign countries… despite the warnings.
Of course, we could add much more to that list. However, not to put the cart before the horse, but I do believe that the reason those big moments in life are big is because they all involve bigger than normal risks (especially drinking water in other countries).
To be clear, I personally have taken all of those risks that I listed and I imagine most of you reading this have as well. But when I think about taking personal risks outside of those predictable and memorable moments that many of us have in common, I think of the many of the people who I consider to be my heroes – heroes that I know or have known personally as well as celebrity, academic, philanthropic, political, actors and actresses, and athletic heroes. I’d like to focus on personal heroes today.
Can you name one of your personal heroes that you know or have actually known right off the top of your head? I sure can. I have no doubt who is at the top of that list for me. It’s my two sons, Nick and Jack. If you are a parent, that might make complete sense to you immediately, especially if you’ve been a parent for any length of time. If you’ve never been a parent and never had the opportunity to become close to someone that you have known for all of their life, it really is a humbling and beautiful experience that is unlike any other I’ve known.
Don’t get me wrong, if you have never been a parent or have no intentions of ever being a one this is not an endorsement for you to do so! After twenty-five or so years in education, I can tell you that I have met many parents who may have wanted to go back in time and reconsider that proposition if they could. And a few, I would probably agree with. Please know that’s not a judgment on anyone. I’m thinking of parents who have all but told me exactly that.
But how do your kids become your heroes? I can tell you for certain it was nothing I ever anticipated feeling or even thought about until I started to realize it. My answer is simply – risk taking. As a dad, I’ve been given an exclusive window in which to watch and participate in the world of two people that I helped create. There has never been a time in their life when I wasn’t “Dad.” And whether or not you’re a mom or a dad makes no difference in this regard. You are often the only two who get those reserved front row seats.
So what do risks have to do with admiring your own kids to the point that they are elevated to the status of hero in your heart, mind, and soul? The answer, for me anyway, is that you watch them grow up as they take risks every single day. Sure, some risks are bigger than others nd there are seasons in their young lives when risks become less frequent… maybe.
When our kids are babies and toddlers, they unknowingly take risks pretty much every minute of their existence.
They never asked for it, but their trust was put in you explicitly to provide for them in every way, from vaccinations to spills, bumps, and bruises you are the one who loves and nurtures and takes care of them so that their risks are minimized.
As they grow, those little buggers learn practically everything from taking risks.
“Don’t run out in the street, honey!”
“Don’t touch that! It’s hot!
“Don’t put that gum in your brothers’ hair again, ok?”
“Look both ways, make sure no cars are coming!”
And then BOOM! Just like that, you hand over the responsibility of guiding them in their little risk-filled lives to a daycare provider, grandma or grandpa, a friend, preschool, etc… I laugh and I cry sometimes when I think about those days “way back then.” I was so in love with being a dad and wanting to spend so much time playing with them. But I also remember the feeling of handing off that responsibility, even for a few hours during the day, and feeling relief! Whoo hoo! 🙂
From there on out, it’s pretty much a roller coaster ride of puke, candy, birthday parties, long waits in urgent care, and rashes. Many, many rashes. But also, we take in the experience of child development as we watch our kids go through the different phases of life that most kids do. Friendships, school, new interests, activities, classes, and sports… all risks that always have the potential
to end in success. When I say “potential”
success, I’m not talking about winning the game, getting a good grade, or even enjoying any specific activity or class they might take.
My view has always been that the biggest successes come from the biggest risks. And we learn most when we are challenged most. And we always have the opportunity to choose how we look at “failures.” Failures are the best kind of risks to lose. We learn more from our failures than anything else in life. That’s a choice all parents have to first recognize and then practice, because sometimes we don’t always see our own failures with that mindset. If you are a new parent or even if you’re a parent who has been doing it for a while, I highly recommend the “no such thing as a failure” mindset.
When you invest your love, energy, and time in your kids and their well-being in every way, and you are given that responsibility and obligation (that YOU created after all), you are also given a special insight into their lives, and yours as well! Emotions get triggered because maybe you remember yourself at that age, or maybe even something about your parents. You’ll see your kids take the same risks that you did and succeeded at, and watch them struggle through. Vice versa, you’ll see risks that you took and struggled with and witness your children have no struggle at all!
Parenting really is a blessing. For the first part of your life, you’ll be almost a god-like and an omnipotent entity to your kids, the great master who knows all and does all! Enjoy that while you can, because it will go away. At some point your little buggers will look at you a little differently, and as they grow and mature they’ll go through the very normal egocentric patterns of development that have them testing the waters of “omnipotent entity” for themselves! Even that part of parenting is a hoot! Because you know, you’ve been there. You’ve been a kid and you know what it’s like to feel that way. You took many, if not most of all of those same risks in life. Some you chose and some you didn’t.
As parents, we really are just guides and teachers to our kids. We nudge them in directions we think they should go at any given time and we pull them back from situations to protect them from being hurt. Yes, that’s our job and responsibility as parents, but it’s very different when you love someone that is really an extension of you. You are family. Families all look different, and that’s a good thing. But no matter how families look in structure, these tugs of love given to us as are special, a place to see our kids fulfill the most amazing process of growth known to mankind.
So my son’s are my heroes because they have taught me more than I could ever have taught them. And they continue to. They are brave and courageous and intelligent. They think for themselves and have survived barrels and barrels of risks – some they asked for and some they didn’t. 🙂 They taught me that when you love somebody you get love back. When you’re kind and respectful, you try hard, trust, and take risks – that all comes right back to you as the parent. That’s what our kids do for us. That’s a gift that can never be returned and is as pure as pure can be. That’s what my kids have done for me, anyway. And that’s why Nick and Jack are my heroes.
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” ~ Albert Einstein