Preparing Kids for Success is Bullshit
“The Child is the Father of the Man” -Benjamin Franklin
I have kids. They are awesome and terrible and so full of wonder that I am bewildered by the brilliance leaking out of them at times. I want to be a good dad to them. No, I want to be a Great dad to them. Sometimes, I even succeed.
Those times are awesome, both in the moment and in sharing it with friends and networks afterwards. The moments in between are tough. I feel like I’m failing, potentially headed toward being a failure and certainly guilty of not rising to what ever occasion happens to be passing me by at the moment.Those times don’t make the news feeds or the camera rolls.
For most of my life I’ve been scared shitless of failing. My Dad would plot silently and execute flawlessly (in the eyes of this child) nearly every aspect of his routine. He didn’t have much patience for my failures (or any failures by the other kids on my soccer team now come to think of it) and he had even less patience for his own. I assumed the responsibilities for these bursts of temper that would arise when he got frustrated with himself as evidence of me failing. I taught myself a role; to assume the responsibility for whatever was eating at my dad. It helped too. When my dad would start to lose his patience, if I could apologize early enough for some imagined or insignificant failure, sometimes the storm would pass from his eyes and we would move on. Problem is, somewhere along the way I started to believe it.
I can forgive myself for handling things like that. I was a kid for god’s sake and kids don’t know shit. But while I’d watch him work and try desperately to remember everything he was doing so I could “learn it”, I never actually tried or practiced or progressed and all I really learned was the lie that an absence of failure implies a success.
Over Thanksgiving, I had the great joy to spend some manual labor hours with my brother in law Nick. Nick is a handy guy and finishes every project he sets out and does a hell of a job at it. While we were working, since I knew he didn’t have much of a chance to do these types of projects with his dad, I asked him how he learned to be so effective. I don’t think he really got the question because he looked at me funny and said “What do you mean? I just knew that if I fucked it up bad enough I could learn to fix it”.
I’ve lived so long with that deliberately sown seed of doubt growing in my chest I need desperately to succeed at something. Hell, anything. The only problem is I need it so bad that I can’t do the one thing that will help me reach whatever success waits for me. I need to fail. And not the soft, pussy type of failing that comes from giving up or missing deadlines or from just going through the motions. I need a balls-to-the-wall face plant into the brick wall of a shit house type epic failure.
In the meantime, I want to make sure that the same miscommunication isn’t passed down to my kids. Already by writing this, I’m reminded of a few times recently where my Oldest has apologized for things he has no business apologizing for in an attempt to bulwark against the rising tides of my temper. Funny how things repeat.