I went into parenthood thinking that I would show my daughter my flaws whenever possible, so that she understood what it meant to be human. However, about a year and a half into my journey as a parent I discovered that my daughter saw me as a Superman, impervious to pain, sorrow, lying and mistakes. But I admit — I am an imperfect dad. So, I hope she will find some use in what I am about to share.
Do Not Fear Failure
Why do we fall down? So we can get back up again. I have become an full-fledged advocate of this expression. Failing at something does not inherently mean you are a failure. It just means you tried.
Right around when my daughter turned 3, she created a song completely on her own. The title of the song was “Try, Try Again.” What a fantastic message, especially for a 3 year old. I couldn’t have agreed more. So, my daughter should adopt a growth mindset. Take chances. What I mean is, she should raise her hand in class and not fear an incorrect answer. Step up and take the last-minute shot or penalty kick or swing away in the bottom of the ninth.
I spent too much of my life making very calculated and completely safe decisions. Because of this, I did not pursue many great opportunities, and my career in education stalled. For years, I feared applying to a fantastic and well-respected graduate program in educational leadership, just because it was in an Ivy League institution. What I needed to learn was that a piece of paper or phone call telling me I was rejected from this school or not the right candidate for that position was not a true reflection of me or my capabilities. So, after much growth and support from my wife, I finally applied for admittance to this program. Not only was I accepted, but I also graduated in excellent standing. Writer Joseph Chilton Pearce sums it up well when he said, “To live a creative life, we must first lose the fear of being wrong.”
Don’t Settle When it Comes to Love
Although this advice to not settle is not exclusive to dating and relationships, I think it applies to this incredibly well. You see, this imperfect dad, before he was a dad, took a chance on dating and marrying the woman who became your mother. I spent a long time in very safe relationships, often with people who liked me more than I them. I also found ways to sabotage good relationships with people for whom I had strong feelings.
With my wife, it was different. I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t mess this up. However, I had numerous reasons to look for a parachute and escape. We are not of the same race. She has a close family, with some very conservative members. She is insanely smart and holds a PhD in a scientific field I have yet to even slightly comprehend. But I did not settle. She was the right person for me, so I did what I needed to do to secure her love and support. Best decision I ever made.
So, whomever my daughter falls for, man or woman, she should not settle when it comes to love. Apple’s Steve Jobs once said, “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”
Be a Hero, Not a Bystander
I have not always been the vocal advocate for social justice I am now. There are periods of time in my life decades ago when I would just let insensitive and inappropriate comments go. I would not share my disgust, disappointment, and disapproval. I now live by the philosophy of “not letting it go”, which is especially relevant as a parent, family member, and educator. Ignorant comments must be addressed. Prejudice must be addressed. Microaggressions must be addressed. Ignorance must be aided. If these are not addressed, more people will be hurt, or ignored, or become disillusioned. I want my daughter to be an ally of social justice, because as The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I write this as a reminder to my daughter that I am flawed, an imperfect dad. I have made mistakes and will continue to do so. Part of my job as her father is to share life lessons in the hope that she will learn from her old man’s mistakes. Most importantly, I don’t want her to be afraid to make her own mistakes. How else will she learn?