How much of you is really you?

Let me ask you that seriously. It’s a very complex and open-ended question that I can’t come to any terms with. It’s something I think about every day. I think about the things I like to do, and I think about the mistakes and successes I’ve had, and I wonder how much of that I want my boys to repeat. I may not have a bunch of money, but geez, I feel like I have an awesome life. 99.9% of the time I’m happy, and the other 0.01% of the time I’m simply angry, but I’m never depressed and I have no substantial regrets. I’m tested in some form every day, and because of all the times I’ve fucked up in the past, I’m usually able to pass those tests, based on prior knowledge that life has given me in the form of literal or figurative beatings.

I live to see funny shit go down and listen to the laughter of my wife. I live to see the contented look on my stepson’s face when he accomplishes a complex task. I live to see my little boy play with his great big German Shepherd Dog in the back yard. I love to lift weights, run, and get in the ring and box. I love to be disciplined (believe it or not). I love to play piano and guitar and like to hunt and fish. Writing is cathartic for me, and I’m getting the itch to learn how to cook.

How much of this did I come by on my own? How much of it was because my parents exposed me to it? That’s really what this boils down to. There is just too much life to attribute any of my characteristics to a single incident, so the parental factor is what I concentrate on. That’s what I want to know. Did my Dad teach me my love of discipline, while my Mom taught me to love to play piano and guitar? Hell, it seems like everybody blames their parents for the bad shit they themselves do, how much of your likes, loves, and hobbies can you rightfully blame on your parents? How much of the good stuff you do should your kids someday blame on you?

My analogy for this is a Bassett Hound and a Border Collie. My idea of training a dog is to train it. My brother’s idea of training a dog was to let it have “free will”. My border collie could’ve painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel on the head of a pin. My brother’s bassett hound was having a good day if she took a dump on the tile floor of the kitchen instead of on the carpet of the stairs.


That bassett hound was the happiest and sweetest dog I’ve ever seen, whereas my border collie always seemed so intense and focused (I realize these are respective characteristics of the breed, but I’m trying to illustrate a point here, so work with me).

Now transferring that to how I was raised, what I like to do, how I am, and how I want my kids to be (again, I’m simplifying here, but don’t for a second downplay the role parenting has): I have some pretty good ideas about what my kids could do that would make their lives a whole lot easier than mine has been; but without the economic struggles, substance abuse issues, weight problems, etc. I’ve battled, I don’t know if I’d be the person I am today, and that is a person who is pretty much fucking happy! My expectations are low, my satisfaction high, and if I’m nearly six feet above the ground each morning, rather than exactly six feet below, it’s already an okay day.

How hard should I push Sam towards those stars? Does it matter if he doesn’t learn how to play drums? I’m serious, if you want your stock to go up in the rock ‘n’ roll world, learn to play the drums Sam, because you’re already a damn good guitar player, but finding even a half-decent drummer is finding that proverbial needle because most parents can’t stand having a kid in the basement pounding the skins all afternoon (the drums that is, get your mind outta the gutter). Should I just let the kid “get by” by only be an awesome guitar player?

How about Will? He watches me lift weights and box. He has no choice, he’s a captive audience because he’s too little to roam about the gym. Do I want his favorite activities to be just like mine? Do I want him to do the same things I do, but with a skill level just below mine?

Do I want him to be a good boxer, but not be able to ever beat me? Or bench press more than me? That’s how my Dad wanted it – he wanted me to only like the things he liked. Period. But he never wanted me to be better at those things than him (which is totally fucked up, but true). Or do I want Will to do his own things? How much free will should Will have?

In conclusion, that is my question set; I guess not just as a parent, but as an educator in general: Should you just expose your kids/students to stuff and then back them up if they take an interest in it? How do you tell when they have a genuine interest in something – how do you tell when they’ve actually got the ball, or if they even want the ball? Should you drive home the point, past simple introduction, all the way to mastery, then let them decide if they like it or not? How far do you drive them before telling them to get the out of the car, get their own damn car, and pay for it with their own damn mistakes?


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