Sunday, February 22, 2009

Two sides, one coin

We're spending a lot of time in class this semester discussing the logic behind how we think. I'm pretty sure this is to better frame the concepts of adult education for us, but it's interesting nonetheless.

With this comes discussions of Robert Kegan's orders of consciousness and how we see the world in relation to ourselves. In a gross oversimplification, can we see the forest or are we constantly bogged down by seeing everyone's individual trees?

My wife is entering the seventh month of pregnancy this week, which puts us in the home stretch for the baby on the way. In addition to the usual butterflies about late complications and strange things that happen outside of anyone's control, I have been fighting the good existential fight about being a good dad and resigning myself to the reality that I will probably not be able to provide a life for my child free from want, hurt or disappointment.


Honestly, I wasn't ready for that. I've spent over 30 years trying to be a good son without giving a second thought to what my parents were feeling on the other side of that. I now worry constantly about making mistakes - both catastrophic and utterly insignificant - that will disappoint my kid. It's not quite "pressure" in the traditional sense of the word, but that feeling many of us have where no matter how old we get, we just don't want to let our parents down.

I'm not necessarily worried that I'm going to screw up my kid in any lasting, serious way - just in the fun, mildly permanent ways - or that I'll suddenly flake out and become utterly unreliable, but the whole experience has been really interesting to me from an outside perspective.

You spend 30 years just assuming that the onus was on you to prove yourself as a son or a daughter and don't realize just how strangely self-centered that perspective is until you find yourself as a parent one day (and react just as strangely and self-centered as you did in the first place).

Seeing as this is all new to me, I've developed a simple plan for dealing with this new situation. First, I'll fall back on instinct as my folks did a great job with me - it wasn't perfect, but they are only people and did the absolute best they could. I am sincere when I say that I have nothing but appreciation for the job they did and I could do worse than to simply follow their playbook.

Secondly, I need to remember that my dog turned out pretty well and doesn't hate me and that's saying something given our battles when he was a puppy hellbent on destroying my home.

Third is to just keep doing what I have been doing from the other side of the equation. I'm just going to keep working under the assumption that it's up to me to keep the whole thing moving forward, even when I know that's not necessarily true. I'm just going to put in the work, do my best based on what I know and hope for a few lucky breaks along the way.

That basic formula has worked out better than I've deserved so far.

(Image is my son/daughter)