A Personal Take
As a kid, I had dreams, determination, and persistence. My dreams were helpful to me to form a picture of where I wanted to go, but at the time I didn’t believe they could come true. My determination to make a better life for myself was strong, but limited by my reluctance to ask questions or for help. My persistence was real, for I would not have eventually broken out of my shell had it not been there to keep me going.
What I didn’t have was intestinal fortitude, knowledge or guidance. By intestinal fortitude I mean I was afraid to be strong, i.e. to not care about consequences or what people thought about me. It kept me from getting the knowledge and guidance I needed so badly. I couldn’t open doors that I did not know existed nor could I ask questions that I didn’t know to ask. I was willing to listen to someone, but my dad wasn't there for us and my mom had her hands full raising six children. Others, that may have helped, I never approached.
I can think of so many things that held me back, all of which were in my control. I just needed a kick or a pull. In my thirty-five plus times that I changed schools and neighborhoods, I shrunk into a cocoon instead of spreading my wings. In college, I would spend a crazy amount of time on a subject I didn't understand yet not ask for help, leaving little time for other subjects. In USAF pilot training I was not aggressive enough to make corrections either in the air or on the ground. I had big ideas within myself, but tentative and cautious in the real world. I had two major fears, 1) fear of success and, 2) fear of failure. Those fears fought against each other. A conundrum for certain!
As I have written in my book, “The Power of Dadhood”, I started to turn my fears around in my late twenties, but progress was slow and confidence was still lacking for years, even with success. I still have my insecurities, but who doesn’t? What turned me around was looking at life in a way that was positive and fearless, understanding that failure was just a rung in the ladder of success, not a bottomless crevice. And success was not the last rung in that ladder, but a new base for extending my reach. That could have been taught to me had the right combination of people been in my life. There was no talk of ladders of success nor were there pep talks. Not everyone needs those words of encouragement, but most do.
Parents Take Notice
I write this as a cautionary notice, an eye-opener, to parents of kids like I was, or any kid for that matter. From experience, I know kids need and want guidance. They may not ask for it, but they do. I ask that you stop and ask yourself if you do more than love, feed, and clothe your children. Do you mentor them through their weaknesses and/or challenge them in their strengths?
If you are a single parent, do what you can on your own, but don’t resist getting help. Look for help from someone of the opposite sex whether a friend, sibling, parent, coach, counselor, big brother, big sister, or the Big Brother/Big Sister organization. Look for clues about the needs of your kids that you may otherwise miss. Don't be afraid to open that 'Pandora's Box'. A little extra angst is worth helping your children . Be careful not to allow them to fall prey to people who are troubled or reckless; that are angry or without guidance themselves.
All Kids Need Guidance
This call to parents is not about troubled kids. It’s about all kids being enabled to reach their full potential through mentoring, influence, confidence, and enthusiasm. Because, while my life has been successful beyond my dreams, missed opportunities as a young man have convinced me that I never reached my true potential. I imagine few of us do.
I am a grandfather now but I am still looking to be mentored by others hoping to expand my knowledge. Learning from others that are not necessarily smarter than me, but people with different views, experiences, and talents. Admittedly, I am stubborn regarding many issues, philosophies, or just gut reactions. That's because what I learned or didn't learn as a young person, has a tight hold on me. Therefore, help your children get all the positive thoughts and encouragement they possibly can while they are still impressionable by those who care most about their futures.