Monday, June 29, 2015

Parenthood: Week 107 - 6/26/15, When Love Won

Dear Ollie,

Seven years ago, I wrote this letter to you about what it meant to truly love the people in our lives and how for some, the issue of homosexuality effects the way they value the lives and experiences of other people.

Last Friday morning, was a tough morning of me. I was facing a 7-hour road trip with you and your mom. There were tons to do to get ready and it was difficult to make these preparations and take care of you the same time. At a certain point, I decided that I would take a break from packing and take you to a play space.

As you were running around, I checked my phone and the headline came up. On Friday, June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states in America. I felt tears of joy welling up, and grabbed you as you were trying play with a toy car and hugged you tight.

Why do I care so much about other people’s right to marry who they want? Yes, we have friends who are gay and yes, some of the people I admire the most in this world are gay as well. But there is no one in your immediate family who is gay. So how does marriage equality affect those of us who aren’t gay?

Marriage is an institution as old as civilization itself, however it’s been constantly evolving. Your grandfather’s grandparents in Taiwan had concubines, which were a way that a man could have multiple wives. One generation down from that in Taiwan, your great-grandparents had arranged marriages. This meant that a person’s parents decided whom they would marry as a business agreement when that person was a child. There was no love involved in this decision.

In the history of America, marriage has also evolved. Widows used to regularly marry their brother-in-laws and woman in their early teens, often married men twice as old as them. It was in relatively recent American history in 1967 that Miscegenation laws, which stated that people of different races could not marry were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

It’s incomprehensible that our country once thought that my marriage with your mom was so morally wrong and damaging to society that it should be illegal.  But that was the case in America for the most of our countries existence.

Marriage equality is one more step in the direction of making our country a more perfect union for all of its citizens, but there’s more to be gained here than simply the rights of people who want to marry people of their own gender.

The bravery of homosexual, bisexuals and transsexuals to come out to their families, churches, communities and workplaces has allowed heterosexuals to expand the definition of what it means to be straight. Male identity for so long was simply defined as what was not feminine. With the work of men in the gay community to be more visible and respect, it has allowed straight people to be more than a jock stereotype.

As we have learned to accept the diversity of the gay experiences, our society has also learned to embrace a higher level of plurality on what it means to be straight. While the queer community has gained rights the straight community has taken for granted, the straight community has gained a freedom of expression throughout this own process that has allowed men like me to redefine masculinity as a beautiful spectrum and not an effort to not be feminine.

All of this stuff was happening before last Friday, but when same-sex marriage was legitimized in our entire country, it puts all of this in a different light. There’s an affirmation, a promise that this movement is in fact at the core of what it means to be American. It connects the fight for marriage equality to all of the battles we have fought as a country to protect the rights of all citizens. Whenever any group of Americans gain rights, it reaffirms the rights that we all deserve and through this examination, and through these decisions, we all benefit as Americans.

The main reason I was so happy when I read this news is because what it would mean for you. It is to early to us to know whether you will want to marry a boy or a girl. While we know you like pink socks and purses, you are also really into your toddler t-ball set and your little tool set.  Whoever you love and whatever you are into, your mom and I will always support you.  With this news, I know that no matter what kind of person you grow up to be, the spirit of the highest court in our land has your back as you discover who you are and learn to love yourself as we love you.

Racism didn’t disappear with the Civil Rights Act and bigoted homophobic people will always be around. However with this Supreme Court decision and the movement towards wider acceptance of people of all sexual orientations, there will be less of them. Your kids will have just as hard time comprehending why someone would not want two woman to marry as you have a hard time understanding miscegenation laws

There is no greater pride that I can have in our country than knowing that your America will be a more free and just America than the one that I grew up in.

Thanks for all beauty and love that you bring to not only to our lives but also to everyone that you touch.

- Dad

Friday, June 26, 2015

Year 5: Summer Reflections On Insecurities

When I was saying goodbye to two of the teachers who were retiring from my school, one similarity between them became very clear. They seemed very insecure. Both of them were always interested in my perspective, even though both of them had taught longer than I’ve been alive. Neither of them asserted themselves as experts and there was a humbleness about them that I found comforting but also surprising.

It was comforting because knowing that a teacher who was at the point of retiring had similar struggles that I did, validated my issues as a teacher, but it was also a little surprising. If you’ve been teaching as master teacher for so long shouldn’t you have your life figured out by retirement?

Then I reflected on the my own confidence that I carry myself and the kind of “face” I put on in front of my colleagues. Then I realized that, my persona of having things figured out, and seeming like I knew what to do in some ways was because of my own personal insecurity.

The people who have the least to prove, the people who have mastered parts of their lives are the ones who are secure enough to embrace things that need work and freely express these things, which can seem like insecurity to others.

It takes more strength and self-belief to admit to your peers that you don’t know the answer, than to put something forward in an attempt to overcome a level of insecurity that you have not reconciled.

I’ve met many teachers who have a lot more experience than I do, and I’ve always connected better with the ones who combine their incredible skill as a teacher with humbleness. This combination of knowing one's strengths and also embracing weaknesses, communicates authenticity to students as well as other teachers.

There have been times that I’ve expressed my struggles as a teacher with my students. Sometimes when and eighth grade class isn’t going well, and I’m out of ideas, I’ll tell them. It’s a scary thing to do, but like all authentic expressions, my students reacted positively and seemed to appreciate my honesty.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve never had that laser-eye direction in my life. I have hopes. I want to be a better teacher. I want to be a person in the community that people can rely and come to in times of crisis. But more than all of that I want to be that a faculty member who secure enough in my teaching, that I can be more open about what I don’t know.  It is exactly those people who have inspired and motivated me to be a better not only a better teacher but also a better human being.

It’s the fact that we don’t understand our world that leads us to our greatest accomplishments and our most meaningful human connections. Maybe that’s the same for teaching. By embracing who we are and bringing forward what we don’t understand, perhaps we can create the connections with other teachers and other students that can bring education become closer the goal of helping our students better know and embrace themselves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Parenthood: Week 106 – The Moment I Realized I Was A Father

This story of fatherhood is set in Taiwan during my maternal grandmother’s funeral. Click here for my travelogue about this experience. 

Looking out the floor to ceiling windows of our hotel room, I gazed upon the view of downtown Taipei. Stretched out before was a sea of modern progress.  The Taipei 101 building was in clear sight and cranes all around raised buildings towards the sky.

Even though I was exhausted, I woke up before my alarm. I was still jet-lagged and not yet recovered from the over 15-hour journey from Chicago to Taipei.  It was only our second day in Taiwan. However even if we had been there for a week, I still probably wouldn’t have sleep very well, because today was the day that my family was going to bury my Po-po (maternal grandmother).

Diana was still asleep and it was too early to go down for breakfast so I sat on the couch looking out the window.  I felt lost.  I had too much time on my hands and I didn't know what I needed to do to prepare for the day emotionally.

I eventually made my way to the bathroom and went through my morning routine. Actions that were so normal, like brushing my teeth and shaving, almost felt wrong knowing the nature of the coming day. I comforted myself knowing that I wasn’t alone. Diana was here.

From the moment we heard the news that my Po-po was dying, she supported me. She helped plan this stressful trip. And when we bought me a suit that we thought I might need for the funeral, she insisted that the alterations be done quickly so that we could have it ready for the trip.  She stood up for me when I didn’t have it in me to stand up for myself.

Because of Diana I had made it this far, so I knew I’d be okay.

As I left the bathroom, Diana was sitting up in bed. She got up and put on her glasses. Diana hates wearing her glasses and only wears them in the transition before going to bed and getting up in the morning.  But I kind of think she looks cute in them. As she slipped them on and gave me a hug, I felt the optimism and kind spirit in her embrace I saw in her eyes ten years earlier when we first met.

She went into the bathroom to get ready for the day. Instead of changing out of my pajamas, I found myself sitting in the same couch looking out of the window watching the sunrise over the mountains.

A couple minutes later, I heard the bathroom door open and felt Diana's presence coming closer. I turned to face her and she told me with her love and excitement in her eyes that we were going to have a baby. We immediately embraced, I told her that I loved her and she told me that she loved me. I continued to hug her as we sat down.

I don’t know what’s the happiest moment of my life. The many different joyful moments, I’ve been blessed to experience have held different meanings in my life. So it’s difficult to compare, but I will say that finding out this news of the baby that would grow into Ollie is one of the happiest. I didn’t quite have words at that moment (which is a big deal for me). In that silence as we held each other, the sun finally reached it’s apex high up in the sky and everything in my life came into perspective.

On this day, I would say goodbye to my Po-po, and Diana and I would welcome this child into our hearts. These two moments, the beginning of life and the end of life, frame our lives and give our actions, our thoughts and our feelings meaning.

After a long joyful silence, we stood up, talked briefly, agreeing not to tell anyone our news and got ready for the day. We didn’t speak of our child during the long busy day. Our focus was on my family and my Po-po. However, I couldn’t help but hold Diana’s hand a little bit tighter when helping her off the bus and check in often with her making sure she was comfortable. As much as I felt I wanted to be there for her, Diana as always was the rock I needed for myself and for our child.

Ollie will never meet his paternal great-grandparents, but I feel blessed that he was with us to share in that trip to Taiwan to say goodbye to his great-Po-po. When I look at Ollie, sometimes I think about my Po-po and instead of feeling sad, I feel happy knowing that he shared this experience with us.

I'm excited for the day that I will tell Ollie about his trip to Taiwan.  I’ll tell him about the long flight, and the weird toilet with over twenty buttons.  But most importantly, I will tell him about the love that my family shares because of my Po-po, which led his life and joy we share with each other every single day of our lives.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Year 5: Week 39 – The Week After

Most teachers have an extra week that they work at school after the students have left. This time of the year is an interesting flurry of activity. First off, there are grades to get done. At the same time we have meetings to reflect on the year, wrap-up old projects and do some early planning for the following school year.

It’s a challenging time because with the deadline of our grades, it’s difficult to sit in meetings and think ahead to next year. However we need to make this happen because we have so little time in the year to have many important conversations. Also, there is a certain amount of planning that teachers must do before the school year is over so that the following year can begin smoothly.

There’s the cleaning of classrooms, which is an ever-lasting battle. For some reason classrooms have a way of collecting stuff and if you aren’t careful, you can get buried in piles of papers, books, and unused supplies. As well as being an important step to keeping organized, the cleaning of classrooms also is a ritualistic activity that helps us put the year in perspective as we sift through student work, and materials.

For some of us, like myself, all of these meetings, grade writing, cleaning and reflecting sparks tons of ideas for the following school year. I can’t help making lists of ideas, while trying to slow my brain down and stay focused.

While doing all of these activities, I also ran a one-week summer camp at my school for the second year. This really was mental gymnastics switching from my role as a teacher to running camp activities. The camp went great and the kids were awesome but it was a hard week to stay focused. A big part of this had to do with the lack of students in the school.

Every job has the factor that keeps you motivated and focused and for me it’s the students. Sometimes I feel like I can get more done during the school year in twenty minutes that are interrupted by students than an hour of time in the last week of the school with the hallways silent. Yes, the kids are distracting, but they are a constant reminder of the purpose and timeliness of tasks.

This week after is also a time for final goodbyes to colleagues that are leaving. As the grades get completed and the meetings wrap-up, it’s also a time to take an extra couple minutes to have that conversation with a fellow faculty member that you always meant to have but never have the time of mind-space to make happen.

As I was cleaning off my white board, using the clearing spray to get off all the streaks and smudges, I felt this quiet feeling of accomplishment. First off, I had never had the time to get this white board so white, and second, I felt like I finally arrived at the end of the school year.

Not everything went perfect this year, but a lot of things went great. There were struggles, frustrations and disappointments, but looking back on those moments, I don’t really mind those times because we always came out of those situations in a better place than we started. The question I asked myself as I was cleaning as “Am I excited to come back next year? Do I want to do it all again?” I smiled knowing that without a doubt the answer was yes.  With that affirmation, I knew that all was right with who I was: a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend and a teacher.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Parenthood: Week 105 - Reasonable Accommodations

When I removed the car seat from my car so I could take my lawnmower into the shop, I didn’t think it would almost cause a meltdown.

I brought the car seat into our living room and proceeding to start cooking dinner. Ollie wanted to play with the buckle on the car seat. I brought some toys into the kitchen and asked Ollie to play in the kitchen so I could keep an eye on him. He refused. He was really into the car seat. I grabbed his hand to try to lead him over to the kitchen, but then he start screaming.

I needed Ollie to be in the kitchen or at least in eyesight, but Ollie was not going to move away from that car seat with out a fight. Hmm. . . So I picked up the car seat, which caused Ollie to start screaming as I moved it into the entryway of the kitchen. He calmed down once he saw that he could get to the car seat that was now on the floor and Ollie quietly played with the buckle on the car seat while I cooked dinner.

This is what we call a “reasonable accommodation.” This is a term that is used in discussing students with special needs. A reasonable accommodation would be letting a student who processes symbols slower do just the even problems on a math assignment or let them have extra time to do a test. An unreasonable accommodation would be to give a student who has language processing issues the answer to a spelling test, while letting the students do the test verbally would be a reasonable accommodation.

Much like teachers, parents of toddlers have to constantly figure out what is a reasonable accommodation when raising their toddler. There are the accommodations that most parents agree on. If a kid wants to read a different book than the parent picked out, most parents will accommodate this request. However if a child doesn’t want to sit in the car seat during a car ride, that simply is not going to happen, no matter how much the child protests.

Those are the easy ones. The real challenge are the grey areas that some parents think are okay that others do not. For some parents a reasonable accommodation is letting their toddler eat dinner sitting on their lap if it means they eat better. For other parents this is not something they are willing to do. I let Ollie choose his clothing most of the time and I accommodate his request almost all of the time. There are parents who probably don’t agree with this.

It all boils down to these incredibly difficult questions: How much are we willing to compromise to make our child happy, but more honestly, prevent a meltdown? Which of these compromises may have long-term behavioral consequences that we will regret later?

This is a constant struggle, and I’d like to think I’m hitting the right balance most of the time, but I’m probably going to realize years from now, I shouldn’t have caved in on certain requests of Ollie while, other times when I held the line with Ollie, it really didn’t matter that much.

All I got to go on is trying to make sure that whatever choices I make don’t come from a power struggle. Holding the line should never be about establishing authority and compromising with your child should not feel like a loss of control. Like two parents, you are on the same team with your child. Nobody wins when the other person looses.

We as parents have authority, and its important that all the choices we make for our children help both the children and us as parents get to a better place in our relationships and our lives. If this means you cut your toddler off from dinner because he throws a fork or that you move a car seat around the house to keep your kid entertained, so be it, because in the long term if the accommodations are reasonable and for the benefit of all, you both win.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Year 5: Week 38 – Ollie's Class Day

When I walked Ollie into the cafeteria of the school it was empty. It was Class Day, the last day of the school year and while we arrived at the normal start of the school day, the rest of the students were planning on arriving a couple hours later, which was the tradition on this day.

After getting some food, we sat down together and ate breakfast. I finally knew what it was like to sit down and have breakfast with my kid at school. Almost every morning I walk through the cafeteria to get some hot water to make a cup of tea and I see faculty whose children go to this school eating breakfast with their children, and I always feel a little jealous of them. It was the perfect way to start a day at school together: Sitting down to a relaxing meal and sharing a moment of peace over some scrambled eggs and bacon.

As teachers started arriving at school, Ollie waved at them as they walked down the hallway. People stopped to wave, say good morning to Ollie and attempt to give him hi-fives. Ollie responded with smiles and little waves, happy to receive the attention.

We explored the school and found the ramp up to the 8th grade atrium. Ollie slowly walked up the ramp and then ran down the ramp, screaming in joy. Then Ollie repeated this for the next ten minutes as students and other teachers stopped and smiled at his unbridled joy.

As students started filling the school Ollie found playmates. There was the 8th grade boy who played peek-a-boo with him through the side window of a classroom door, the 5th grade girl who helped Ollie sing his “ABCs” and one of my 7th graders who could not get over Ollie’s cuteness.

The response of the administration and the faculty was a clear expression that Ollie was welcome and treasured. Principals stopped to say “hello,” and almost every teacher insisted on stopping to have a conversation with him. I had seen this before with kids of other faculty members, this wonderful expression of joy that showed me that they valued my family as part of who I was as a teacher.

Signing yearbooks is a big part of this day and I usually sign a bunch of them. Most kids realized that I had Ollie to watch so many of them asked for Ollie’s signature as well as mine. While my students were excited to get my signature and a message from me, kids were even more overjoyed to get scribbles drawn by Ollie.

Before the end of the year assembly the 6th graders (about 70 of them) all gathered into the history classroom for announcements. I walked in as the meeting started holding Ollie as was greeted with a chorus of “aww’s.” The teachers settled the students down and I sat down with Ollie towards the front of the room surrounded by students. He made smiley faces at the students around him, interrupted the teachers making announcements with little chirps, but no one seemed to mind. At one point he decided to widely swing around in my lap, and the teachers and the students gave up for a second being focused and laughed at Ollie’s silliness.

By the time we walked into the gym, most of the school were settled in the seats. When I walked carrying Ollie in front of the 5th graders they erupted in greetings and waves towards Ollie. At first he clung closer to me, but then seeing the sea of smiling faces, he waved back, getting an even bigger response and giggled at the attention. He got a similar response from my 3rd graders.

The world isn’t all smiles and every group of people Ollie encounters is going to welcome him with open arms, but he doesn’t need to deal with this yet and for right now I love whenever he is in situations that shows him that people are wonderful and that life is beautiful. There’s a lot of things I love about my school, and so much of that was evident in the way that the school embraced my son on Class Day.

At my school we talked about being a model home, taking care of the people in our community and how each part of the school is important, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. I feel this philosophy every day, and it made me feel proud and honored to have this expressed to my son on this very special day, the last day of school, at the close of my fifth year at this wonderful school.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Parenthood: Week 104 – No, no, no . . .

There are some milestones you look forward to as a parent like first steps, first words and the first song your child learns to sing.  And then there are the milestones you dread. There’s the first painful burn, the first allergic reaction and the first notes your child plays on a viola.

In the past couple weeks, it’s become clear that we have hit one of “those” milestones: the use of the word “no.”

“No,” isn’t really a common word in our household. When we were raising Buffy, we were very conscientious to only use “no” rarely and really focus on positive feedback.  Buffy’s trainer taught us that using the word “yes,” with a bright smile make a dog want to look at you whenever you talk, which makes the times that you need to use an assertive “no” have more impact. If you are always saying “no” to a dog, like humans, they begin tuning it out.

In Ollie’s first year of life, it wasn’t really necessary to tell him “no.” If he was getting into something that he wasn’t suppose to, it was more our fault than his own, so it didn’t make sense to lay the blame on him. Now that he is 103 weeks old, he is comfortably walking, running (kind of) and jumping. There are things around the house that he needs to know he shouldn’t get into and there are actions that he needs to learn how to control. So the word “no” has become part of the way we interact with Ollie. And of course, it comes to no surprise that he is now using this word in his interactions with us.

There’s the expected “no, no, no” whining when we turn off the television or take away a toy that he is not done playing with. That’s easy to take and not a big deal, but the screams of “no, no, no” when I reach to pick him up out of his crib are a different thing altogether.

Some when I go to pick him up or reach out to him, he will yell “no, no no,” and push me away. Diana responds by telling him that this is not how we respond to people in our family and she will give me a hug. Seeing this, Ollie will often walk over and want to join in on the embrace.

Here’s the thing about Ollie saying “no.” Often, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. If I ask him if he wants to eat a certain kind of food and he says “no.” if I then show him the food, he will often say “yes” and smile. The word “no” for Ollie isn’t so much a negative but one of the few verbal ways he can express confusion, frustration or discomfort. While I get that he is not being purposely hurtful, it’s difficult to deal your child screaming at you to get away when you approach.

This past Thursday, before I left for work, I heard him stirring so I went in to say good morning and he was not happy to see me. He screamed “no” at me, wanting his mom. Diana got him to calm down, but he was cranky and in a bad mood so I left after unsuccessfully trying to get him to calm down.

I got home about an hour after he had gone to bed. As I was walking around the house, I heard him giggling in his crib. Most of the time, I would just ignore this and let him work himself back to bed but I decided to peek in. As I looked down at him in the darkness, he softly said “dada” and reached up to me. I picked him, settled into the rocking chair and sat him down on my lap.  Then turned his body around so he was facing me and with a big smile began talking to me.

Ollie sat up, reached toward my face, giggled when I playfully chomped at his finger. Then he hugged himself and said “I love you” and fell forward into my chest. After we talked some more, I put him back into his crib and let him fall asleep.

Do I know for sure that his words at the nighttime were more sincere than his protests earlier in the morning?


Ollie may verbally say “no” to me, and he may push me away sometimes when he would prefer my wife or to be left alone. As much as we sometimes try to define ourselves by what we don’t like (which can be an endless list), it is where we find solace in difficult times in our lives that we find what is most meaningful to who we are as people. 

Does it hurt when Ollie says “no” to my presence? Yes, but its easy to get over, because even if he doesn’t want me at a certain moment, I know that other times, more often than the moments of rejection we bring meaning and love into each other’s lives.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Year 5: Week 37 – The Biggest Mistake

“The biggest mistake I made when I was a younger teacher and that I see other less experienced teachers make is that they get too close to their students.”
Yesterday, one of the middle school teachers that I have a high level of respect for made this comment in conversation. We were talking about the fact that even though I’m not any less committed to my job as a teacher, since becoming a father being a teacher is not as high a priority in life. Problems at work still occur, but they don’t stay in my head when I go home like they used to before becoming a father.

People have different ideas of what it means to be a teachers. There is that “Mr. Holland’s’ Opus,” fantasy of being a teacher where you make deep emotional connections with your students and you change their lives. A lot of young teachers, including myself years ago, attempt to chase these kinds of deep and meaningful relationships with our students. The problem is that for most of our students, this is not what they need from us.

We are teachers. We aren’t parents. Teachers should never love their students as parents love their kids. Students, even in the best situations, don’t really care about their teachers as people. It’s easy to forget this especially as a young teacher.

When you are a young teacher in the school, you are often walking into a situation when there is also a far amount of older teachers. Students see a fresh face who understands their cultural references and likes the same music they do and they get excited. As a teacher and human being, this positive attention feels great. Your kids get comfortable with you, tell you their personal concerns and issues and you feel like you are really connecting with them and helping them in a meaningful way.

The difficult thing is that this dynamic makes it hard to maintain authority, and control especially when conflicts arise. The younger students get, the more difficult it is to have a relationship with a teacher that is both authoritative and buddy-buddy. The switch between the two, which may seem logical to a teacher, can feel like betrayal even to the most mature high school students.

I’m not advocating that we don’t foster meaningful bonds with out students but there is a line that should not be crossed. The difficulty is that there is no black and white rules in understand these boundaries in the relationships that we foster with our students.

While there are legal ways to look at these boundaries, there is a broader, philosophical question that helps us guide the way we interact with our students. Who truly benefits? Are your interactions with your students more about their educational growth as a human being or your social and emotional gratification? While friendships should have a level of equity, student-teacher relationships do not.

We should feel professional satisfaction from our work with our students but emotional support and social stimulus should not come from our students. To do so takes advantage of our place of authority.

Teachers serve students’ needs, not the other way around. To teach our students with equity, compassion, and professionalism, we need to keep a level of distance so we can make clear decisions as professionals.  The balance between relating to our students and getting too close to our students can be difficult, but it's an important issue to struggle with.

Keeping this distance may not be as fun, but having "fun" isn't what this gig is about.  Like I tell my students, the satisfaction from hard work and good choices made as a citizen will last far longer than "fun." And the same thing can be said about teaching.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

Parenthood: Week 103 - Success As A Parent

“ . . . a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.”

Vice President Joe Biden wrote this in his message announcing the passing of his son, Beau Biden. It is a sentiment that has been echoed by many other people, however in this context, it gives us pause. How can you be more successful than a man who is the Vice President of the most powerful nation on the planet? What does success really mean? To our Vice President, success isn’t about political power, but how his son Beau “measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother.” In these significant ways, our Vice President sees his son as being more successful, which brings him pride.

This viewpoint of parenthood embodies a selflessness and a lack of insecurity. It’s an approach to parenting in which the parents find energy and life through their kids reaching beyond the parents’ abilities.

Not every parent feels this way. There are people who do not parent selflessly. Through their children they try to prove to themselves and others that their life has meaning. These people push their children to fulfill their fantasies. Sometimes these people also get embittered when their children reach beyond their own personal achievements. This type of parental relationship inevitably leads to resentment from the child and a deeper layer of regret as the parent now lives with their own failures as an individual and a parent.

I can imagine the difficulty in the shifting role of a parent if Ollie at some point becomes a better pianist than me. For years, I am the one teaching him and at some point he overcomes my abilities. It’s not so much that I don’t want Ollie to be better than me, but it’s sign of him growing up. The thing is that even if he does surpass all of my musical skills, there are things that he will always needs from me as a father.  Yes, on one level it’s sad that he doesn’t need me the same way he did a year ago.  At the same time, the challenge of being the dad he needs now is a thrill.  While the transition is difficult, like every other stage in parenthood, I know that this one will bring us closer.

If our Vice President is right, than I'm a successful parent. Ollie is more outgoing and adventurous than me. He has a deeper well of empathy and his optimism is truly inspiring. Ollie is giving, compassionate and generous. He’s a lot more likely to share his meal with you than I am (and he’s also more likely to simply take food off your plate, if you don’t seem to be interested in eating). And if you’ve met Ollie and you know me, there is no doubt that Ollie is so much cooler than I am.

Ollie surpassing me doesn’t really seem like it comes from me being a “successful” parent. I’m make mistakes up all of the time and I’m still working toward feeling truly successful.  Right now Ollie being awesome feels less like a result of my work, and more like a blessing.