On my birthdays, just like my new year eves, I can’t help but to reflect on life and ponder some of the bigger questions. So the other day, turning 39, alone in a hotel room in Bucharest watching the news about Prism and the riots in Turkey I came to think about the state of this world and the world my daughter’s growing up to.
With fatherhood came a new sense of responsibility, more profound than any other responsibility before. To give love and care to a girl of my own blood and prepare her for facing the world as a strong independent individual. The question that immediately came to my mind was: Prepare her for which world – the world as it is or the world as I would want it to be? And maybe more importantly, will my choice matter? Can that choice also have an impact on something more?
Two generations ago that would probably have been a stupid question. Maybe still is. Our grandfather’s were teenagers in between the two world wars and grew up and lived their lives in the same city, maybe moving once to the neighboring state for work. Back then the local environment was the world and the what happened outside of that was delivered in bit-size information in the daily newspaper, later the TV and sometimes by people traveling by.
Today, the relationship with the world is much more complex. We are bombarded with impressions of what the world has been, what it is and what it could be and there are many flavors to the stories. The news tells us one story, typically one of disasters, crime and lurking armageddeon. Rarely are the news focusing on all the good things in this world. Our friends and family tell us another story of the world, that’s the stories that really engage us, for good or for worse. Non-mainstream media tells us a third version of the world, often promising an alternative explanation to past events and different projections of the future. No wonder people get confused!
It is hard to not think of the present world as place of conflict. External conflicts from war to workplace politics and internal conflicts on personal values and priorities. In the midst of this we, as parents, try to make sense of the world, form our own versions of the past, the present and the future.
And I can’t help but to ask myself. “Shall I bring up my girl to be prepared for the world we live in or the world as I would like to it to be?”
The answer to my question obviously lays in my own mind.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. – Buddha by Byrom-
Therefore, my answer to the question is easy – I must raise my daughter the world as I want it to be because I made both worlds with my thoughts. Nevertheless I wouldn’t dismiss my question as purely rhetorical because there’s a genuine question behind : How can I prepare my daughter for the world as it is while planting a seed of engagement in making it a better place? If I chose the other option, the world as it is, then I facilitate the direction it’s going, I become part of the problem. And not to chose is to chose that.
In a world of information overload and a barrage of impressions adults get lost and seek guiding beacons to hang our identities on. Some chose a religious leader, some a political party, others a football team or tribe to serve as the fabric for their identity. Children do the same. And they will find their role model.
So how do you ensure that your children have a positive role model?
Be one. As a parent you must be what you want your children to become.
This also means that you have to give up the notion of being a friend first, you are a parent first! True friends you become later, be the role model first.
Children shape their identity, values, attitude and life style through a process similar to osmosis. They may fight it growing up and this is the hard part, to stand strong when it is so much easier to take a laissez-faire approach – to let it be. Parenthood is about being the best you can be to inspire your children the best they can be. Living with that ambition increase integrity and honesty towards life and trying to live up to that ambition, today and every day, makes me a better person. I am sure I make mistakes and I am sure she will remind me of those through her teens but if she grows up to become a strong and independent individual – facing the world with an ambition to be good and do good – I will rest in peace.
Are you a role model for your children?