There were two girls climbing concrete ramps that run along the side of a set of stairs. They were 7 to 10 years old. One asks the mom to join her. The mom said, “No, that’s for children.”
Doing silly things that might be a little dangerous, fun and/or make you stand out as a fool is for children? What’s for adults? Being serious, fitting in, avoiding danger, risk or fun?
I battle the urge to control my kids. I try not to tell them not to do things. Constantly, I see myself exerting control … and I have to ask, “Why am I saying no?” “What’s the worst that can happen?” “What am I really teaching these kids right now by telling them not to do that?”
It’s my job as father to teach discipline, respect, to stand up straight and chew with mouths closed. But if one of my girls chooses to eat yogurt with her hands and wear it on her face, it’s not the end of the world. I’m confident the world of peer pressure and socialization will beat that out of her by the age of 12. I don’t have to worry about it.
What I have to worry about is my girls be strong enough to stare down the world with courage be their truest selves. I have to worry about the decisions they’ll make because they’re afraid of failing or looking foolish. I have to worry about the decisions they’ll make because they want to be accepted. I have to worry about helping them to know and trust themselves well enough to accept who they are. Even when others don’t.
It’s my job as a father to teach my kids to be brazen enough to fail and try again. It’s my job to teach them to find joy in the mundane and hope in the face of frustration. I don’t do the best job of these things myself. I know the cost.
I know the cost of thinking “What if…” because well meaning people sought to protect me from getting hurt. I know the cost of inaction because someone told me it probably won’t work anyway. I know the cost of second guessing that comes from being told I’m not good at something. Every time I write and publish I wrestle and overcome this.
I don’t want my kids making decisions that shape their identity and character based on what others will think of them. I want them to leap and find the net appear. I want them to come to find that whether you think can or think you can’t, you’re right. I want them to trust themselves and be confident in treading a path not yet beaten.
Four Types of People
There seem to be four kinds of people: Climbers, Controllers, Spectators and Supporters.
Climbers lurch forward creating what’s next. Putting themselves at risk of looking like idiots or getting hurt.
Controllers try to control the climbers. They create rules. They protect what already exists. They try to keep the climbers from climbing.
Spectators watch the climbers. They celebrate when the they the climbers succeed and when they fall. They have no skin in the game and play both sides of the fence.
Supporters look for ways to help the climbers reach new heights. They look for ways to soften their falls. They encourage them when they run into challenges or failures. They might not have the courage to blaze the trail but they have the commitment to help the trail get blazed.
The People Who Get Things Done
Only the climbers and supporters are busy living. They create the new experiences in this world. They fight to make things better. They look for reasons why something can work. They get things done.
The controllers delude themselves into thinking the world will fall apart without them. The spectators think “I want to do that” while not committing to do the work to do whatever “that” is.
Instead of telling the climbers to get down, or just watching them, we could help push them along and catch them when they fall. We can all contribute to the solution.
Which type of person are you? Do you try to control and put up barriers? Do you just watch? Or do you get things done?
The girls were told to get down from the concrete ramps that ran along the stairs. They did. Two minutes later, they found something else to climb.
I hope my kids keep climbing when the world tells them to get down. I hope I do, too.