Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the moment of realizing that my kids can do so much more than I ever could.
Day #16 – Now I am the Master!
Anyone with kids marvels watching them grow and make progress and hit milestones … and against all logic we are all filled with feelings of joy and awe as though our children were the first ever to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, use the potty, and so on.
It is painful watching them fail, difficult seeing them struggle, never enjoyable realizing their limitations of aptitude or interest, and agonizing seeing them in any type of pain.
While it is funny to laugh at Garrison Keillor and the notion that “all the children are above average”, the reality is that when we look at our kids in their first real school class (Kindergarten or first grade), for most skills there will be as many kids better than your child than there are those who are worse. Of course, reading Facebook or blogs (or web forums) you will get a very different impression.
By contrast there are few happier moments than seeing your child achieve something by themselves, seeing them interacting with others in a way that is truly their own, displaying their unique talents and passions in a way that shows them moving beyond simply following your lead and their school requirements and breaking into their own.
I found the picture below going through the drawer in my bedside table … and to be honest in spite of it being from March 1999 – it feels like it could be from yesterday. But at the same time that picture seems like eons ago – because while they will always be my babies, I now have two great young men with a lot to offer the world.
Amanda posted some thoughts for her 49th birthday a couple of weeks ago, and amongst those was “Your kids can teach you more than you can teach them”. And I so totally agree with that – and not so much because they are more skilled at everything (though that is true in some areas), but that they are like us in many ways but are their own people, and because we watch them differently than we watch others, and because they cause us to be open to life in ways nothing else can.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been able to witness things from my kids that not only made me proud as a parent, but also reminded me of how talented they have become and how passionate they are in their areas of interest.
Chris worked as DJ at Macy’s last weekend. This is nothing new – he has done it several times in the past. And even though he couldn’t get paid this time and didn’t know if it would get credit for Honor Society service (it was a Salvation Army tree-lighting event), he did it anyway.
He is a pretty awesome DJ and it is always a blast watching him work. But at one point we were walking over and he was playing one of his own compositions – a cool techno electronica piece that is deep and complex. We were starting to ask him about his song choice when we realized there was someone there enjoying it – in fact, there was a gentleman who had asked Chris to play some of his own music and was totally enjoying it.
They had a great chat and it was wonderful to see Chris as a mature musician and artist discussing his art with someone he had never met before, digging into musical details and structures. Chris has always amazed me with how he looks at time and sound and textures of tonality, it was just great being able to step outside of our normal interactions and hear someone else reflect on what he does.
These recent weeks have been rather busy and stressful between the end of marching band and state championships, normal school stress, and … Danny getting in his early decision NYU application. Because he is applying to the Tisch school to study film, he had to do a film as his portfolio.
Here is the title screen:
The film had a depth and flow that was simply stunning. It was a mature work that was moving, the dialogue made sense in a real way, the observations and insights in a 9 minute film were deep and non-trivial and worth hearing, and the sense of emotion and connection were just stunning.
While I have done enough music that I can fully appreciate what Chris is doing even as his talent and working skills have outstripped mine, Danny is working in an area I have never really touched. I did some soundtrack work for friends ages ago, but I don’t see myself as much of a photographer, let alone a film maker. Chris helped with the cinematography, and it was really incredible seeing the artistic vision discussions between the two of them.
When our kids are young and they make some art or get an award or perform a recital, we are so proud of what they are doing – and I know many readers have kids in that age group where they are really just starting to come into their own, or just showing off the ability to be an independent person. It is really great, and are the early steps on their journey.
What I have seen recently is an evolution of that – it is the beginning of adulthood, where what they are doing is no longer associated with being our kids and being tied to schools, but instead is part of where they are going with the rest of their lives and how they will get there. And it was magical to behold.
And if there is any more of a tear-jerker song as a father … I have no idea what it is …
And to finish this with Cats in the Cradle, one of the most amazing and heartfelt/wrenching songs ever. I think that the proudest moment for a parent (and I am say things as I hope to feel this way one day) is realizing that one’s kids have/could surpass them–it means that you have done your job well.
Thanks 🙂 I have definitely seen parents who compete with their kids – whether for attention or accolades … and it is bizarre …
This post had me tearing up from the first few lines. You hit on quite a few things that resonate with me, even in this young stage of Ashton’s life, especially how tough it is to see them fail or struggle with something, or worse, in pain, but on the flip side, watching them overcome an obstacle by themselves or think outside of the box to meet their end goal is truly incredible. I find myself stepping back a lot now with Ashton (mostly because Robyn reminds me to), not helping him with things just because I am there and I enjoy it, but just watching how he will figure it out on his own–it really brings me a lot of joy. Even at almost 3 years old, he is really becoming an independent little boy with his own thoughts, opinions and ways he wants to do things–its pretty fun to watch this evolution as a parent.
I think as parents, what we want, in addition to our kids being happy, healthy, etc is for them to pave their own way and live a better life that we have, if that makes sense. Not to say our lives aren’t great, but we just always want our kids to have the opportunity to do more and be better. You and Lisa have clearly raised two incredible men that have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them nothing but the best. And…if you can…I’d love to see the whole 9 minutes of Danny’s video, I am sure it’s incredible!!
Have an awesome week Mike!
Thanks Sara, such a sweet comment 🙂
I think every time with our kids is magical for different reasons … it is great to see them be totally joyous and care-free, and then to start to gain independence and on and on … it is great stuff. And it is hard as parents to sometimes let them fail.
Once we are through the college season I will share the videos (of course, no two schools have the same requirements … so he has been writing and scripting and storyboarding and recruiting actors and buying pizza and so on for multiple schools 🙂 )
Thanks for the song. I had the kids this weekend and its so amazing to watch them play together. When they asked if they could come again next weekend it was so much validation. Then I thought how a 4 and 6 year old could have things more figured out than many 40 year olds and I hoped that life didn’t teach them to be too busy to spend time with the people they love.
Thanks for sharing – that sounds like a great weekend! I think kids have it more ‘together’ because of all of the barriers and nonsense and BS we put into our lives as adults.
I think valuing the time you DO have with those you love instead of measuring whether or not it is enough is definitely an important thing to learn. And too few people seem to learn it!
Again, you hit the nail on the head, THAT song, “Cats in the Cradle” was painful and wrenching the first time I heard it– and so many years later– it still is.
His words still teach a really powerful lesson, and bears re-listening to, if its been awhile since you’ve heard it.
Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” is another that still just grabs my throat that same way.
When we were younger, our parents, if they were even asked, would tell us to study something that would lead us to a good job or career. It was very important to them that we find our career path while we were in school, so that we could support our own families when the time came.
We told out kids to study and find their passion–to find what made them tick, not just what would fill their wallets.
Looking back, I majored in what I loved, and actually, so did my siblings. We studied what drew us in and found ways of making those majors work for us.
Now, our kids are grown. We tried, in our own very imperfect ways, to give them everything we could– to encourage them to find their own roads, ones that would serve them well, but also ones that encouraged their own passions. Now– its their turn for each to travel down his or her own road.
Its so hard to let them grow up and go, but its so wonderful when they come back to see us.
Harry Chapin’s words made a great difference to so many, many of us, and it still does.
Please, listen to it while you still can.
Great comment Clare 🙂
I know that like you I was steered towards more practical things – away from writing and music and towards engineering. But the reality is as cool as those other things sounded, math and physics were already my passion … and are still that way as I have passed 30 years since high school graduation.
At the same time I have seen many well educated and smart kids in ‘safe’ industries go without finding a job – nothing is safe, so it is more important than ever to do what you love.
And as a parent I will never regret that I always put my family first. I know I have ‘left money on the table’ … but that is OK.
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