I am not one for incredibly unique, wonderfully deep and insightful thoughts. To me, at least, most of the stuff that pops into my head is pretty mundane, but occasionally an idea germinates in the old brain that surprises even me, its owner.
One time when this happened was when I realised that my son was slightly ahead of the curve when it came to his ball skills. I say “slightly” because I have to fight the Proud Daddy urge to tell you just how exceptional he really is.
I looked at him, a little bit flabbergasted at what he was able to do, and realised that in that little body was all the potential in the world.
It wasn’t just about the fact that he could use a cricket bat like a kid twice his age (sorry, there’s that brag I was holding off), but rather that this kid could become literally anything. He could be a sportsman, for sure, but also a life-saving doctor or a civil leader or even a fantastic father. That was a very exciting thought – until I realised what was going to hold him back from becoming any and all of those things: me.
The life that I create for him, the way I speak to him, the things I say about him and the example I set are all there to chip away at the exquisite block of marble that is my son’s potential, leaving the adult that will have to go out into the world and survive, thrive and make it better than we left it.
That can be daunting, and the first impulse is to take complete control of the sculpture that would be the final result. We want that baby to be us, made in our image, and to be exactly what we expect it to be, which is usually better versions of ourselves. I think so much of the stress that comes from parenting can be found here. We try to build up the parts of them we think they need built up, and since we are so worried about not using our child’s full potential, we end up overburdening them.
However, there is another way.
Michelangelo once said: “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” I think that’s the better way to think about it. The wonderful, exceptional, fruitful and happy adults that our children could one day be are already there, right there in their little bodies. Our job is to chip away, gently, to let that adult out, but it seems to me that just like Michelangelo took direction from the hidden stone, we’re supposed to take direction from the hidden human in our child.
Somehow, I think that starts with listening to them.
Sure, there are many factors that are out of our control. But even with those big things, we can show our kids how to respond – and so we take another knock with the chisel.
“We want that baby to be us, made in our image, and to be exactly what we expect it to be, which is usually better versions of ourselves.”
If we’re honest, I think that process ends up moulding us as much as it does our kids. Maybe that’s why babies bring us so much joy and hope. They are a promise that, just like them, our full potential hasn’t been revealed yet, and this relationship is how we get there.
Isn’t that a strange thought? These little kiddos have as much effect on us as we do on them, even though they are completely helpless most of the time, and who they will be and who we will be is completely intertwined.
So, sure, our babies are us, but in a way, we are our babies too.
AfroDaddy, a.k.a. Terence Mentor, is a place for parents, especially dads, to come together and share in the “duality of parenting” – the fact that being a parent can be fantastic, wonderful and beautiful, while simultaneously being exhausting, frustrating and awful. A husband and father to two boys born 18 months apart, AfroDaddy shares his unique view and experiences, while opening himself to new experiences, learnings and people. You can find him at AfroDaddy.