Do you have a major, overriding life goal, one that guides your actions above all others? I hope so as it can really help to drive your focus and attention to your long term planning activities as well as your contingency actions. Mine was relatively straightforward; be a better dad than my own. To me, this translates into working hard to provide them with options in life, options I never had, and trying to leverage my own life lessons in order to help my boys succeed, (or at least avoid some failures).
When my youngest boy graduated from a private liberal arts high school, I had felt that I had accomplished my life goal. They each had attended college on my dime and now my youngest had the benefit of a Waldorf education and could go to college on my dime if he chose to. Sometimes though, I have my doubts – did I really do the best that I could, did I give them each the best advice I could?
As I’m writing this week’s story, I’m sitting in our AZ home which is empty most of the time, waiting for us to move out of (expensive) California, home of the best government pensions and jobs in the world. We have been coming down here every 4-6 weeks, depending on our plans or other events. This trip’s timing was driven by our oldest boy’s graduation from ASU. Following in his father’s footsteps, while working full time he went back to school to acquire a graduate degree.
I’m a proud papa, true. My musically inclined son now has a Master’s degree in Information Systems. I expect that he will continue to enjoy a monetarily rewarding career. His graduation and achievement, while making me feel proud, is also causing me pause as a father.
As parents, above everything else, we want our children just to ‘be happy’. As parents, we have a huge responsibility in raising human beings. We play a monstrous role in helping to form how our children think and act and what they will do to further themselves and our society. Is there a conflict between the responsibility to teach our children how to thrive in our society and our desire to help our children to find happiness? Can we do both? Sometimes I wonder.
Mitchell has always been a good listener, one who seems to appreciate advice from elders and one who follows through on that advice. We exposed our children to music and the arts, even asked each of them to learn a musical instrument. Mitch was the only one who gravitated with enthusiasm towards music. This thrilled us, but it also worried us that if he pursued it too enthusiastically he might not thrive in our capitalistic society. The music industry is terribly competitive and short-lived.
And so, my fatherly advice was feathered with words of difficulty in the music industry as well as coaching towards acquiring higher paying skills.
Today, Mitch has a good job as an IT partner in a good firm. He realizes his specific role will one day disappear and so he took the proper step to prepare himself by acquiring his Master’s degree. He owns his own house with a pool, makes good wages and has very little debt. He’s also still single. I’m not saying that as a terrible thing, just as fact.
Jimmy Eat World
He also has a decent recording studio set up in one of his bedrooms and has been performing off and on in a couple of bands as either a drummer or guitarist. He’s a hell of a good music production engineer (if that’s what they’re called). He has a great ear and knows how to bring out the best sound in those he records. He’s good friends with the lead of Hawthorne Heights and has hung out with the likes of Jimmy Eat World.
Did I do the right thing, give the right coaching? Would he be happier had he pursued a musical career or would he be struggling today, perhaps depressed because ‘it hasn’t happened yet’?
Is my son happy? He seems happy. I hope so; I hope ‘my best’ was the right coaching. I know he’s going through his share of growing up. I know that one day, (likely when I’m long gone), he will stumble upon this story. Mitch – you seem happy and you certainly now are armed with ‘societal survival skills’ that will allow you to thrive and stay hooked into the music scene. I hope I did you right and that your life has been full of activities and accomplishments that have delivered to you joy and peace.
Were you happy? You are great in this video you performed and produced (I’ve watched it numerous times).