Wednesday, 8 August 2012


If you want your kids to fly, you have to show them how.
Most parents are hypocrites - myself included. And I'm OK with that. In fact, I often argue that if I wasn't an insufferable hypocrite what would force my children to quit my home in disgust when they reach their late teens or early twenties?

I want them packing their bags saying to themselves, "Well, at least I won't be like that guy. I'll set up my own house much better." I know I had such thoughts and now I wonder if my parents hadn't a similar plan in mind when I was a kid.

"Failure to launch" was not an option offered me and I don't plan on presenting that to my boys either. I don't buy this argument it's so much harder for kids today. Compared to who? Kids coming of age in the Depression, WWI or WWII? Please. They don't have it as good as the Boomers but no one else did either.

I'm pretty sure NASA doesn't rely on the astronauts to push the launch button - they gotta have an override switch over at Mission Control.

"Space Cadet, could you please initiate launch sequence?"

"Houston. I think we're going to need to abort this launch."

"Come again, Space Cadet. I don't copy."

"Well, I was just thinking, why do I want to go to Mars anyway? I mean some of the other astronauts are taking a year or two off to find themselves before blasting off. Buzz is going to clown school in France. Flash is going to work on her wake boarding - she thinks she has a shot in competition this year."

"Uh huh. And how are they managing all this?"

"They are saving their money, staying at their Mission Controls..."

"I see. Initiating launch in 5.. 4..."

"But... What's going on? You can't make me go to Mars!"

"3... 2... Actually, I can. Contact!"

Maybe this is why NASA has moved to Robot Rovers.

We tell our kids lots of stuff that we don't or would never do ourselves. Share. Apologize. Go into new situation and make new friends. Ignore what their peers are doing and follow their own desires (which often coincidentally just happen to be what we want them to do). Etc. Some of this is just necessary and aspirational - we want them to be better than us, do the things we didn't have the courage or foresight to do, take advantage of opportunities we feel have passed us by.

Every so often, though, you get called on this. I was reminded of this recently when visiting friends in Chicago. We went to a local pool which had a dive tower. My eldest was literally jumping with excitement and was crushed to find out that he had to wait until it opened. I was secretly relieved. Not because I was worried about his jumping off the tower (he'd done it at camp before) but because I would be expected to go off it too.

I'm the father of three boys. When you come down to it it is a very testosterone heavy environment around here. To maintain my alpha dog status I have to be prepared to do what they do or lose any natural authority. So once the tower opened and my son was in line he immediately looked over for me and waved me to join the group. I indicated I would be there soon - just watching the other boys swimming. Right. I looked over occasionally and I saw one girl at the top pacing back and forth like a caged beast, to the edge, looking over and then back to the ladder, waving kid after kid ahead of her. On the pool deck siblings and her father were calling out to her to jump jump jump. She couldn't do it. At one point her father lined up at the ladder, presumably to encourage her (or throw her off the edge) but then all of a sudden he wasn't lined up any more. Had he lost his nerve?

So I lined up behind my son who had already gone numerous times. When I made it to the top she was still there. She waved my son ahead. He disappeared over the edge with a whoop. I tried to get her to go for it. Her siblings and dad were still below yelling at her. She still couldn't do it and waved me on. It was time.

I knew better than to hesitate or look over the edge. A cut short summer job as a house painter convinced me that heights and I weren't simpatico. So I ran and jumped over the edge. My first thought - "My, that's far down." My second? "Whoo hoo!" I swam to the edge and quickly lined up again.

Occasionally following your own hypocritical advice can be a good idea.

No comments:

Post a Comment