Wednesday, April 3, 2013


How do you teach ambition? Do we tell our children that it's important to win. Or do we emphasize participation? Do we give trophies to everyone just for showing up? Or do we value first place above all else?

The world I grew up in made me feel like a peasant when the high school quarterback walked past us in the hallway. Or when the smartest kid in the class always made the honor roll. How do we handle mediocrity? Or, what is mediocrity?

We can't all be special, can we? ("You're unique, just like everybody else!") My parents taught me that the most important thing in life was to get a stable job. Graduate and then get a job. "A stable one." They probably assumed I'd learn all the other stuff on my own like exploration, curiosity, and love. The most artistic thing in our house was a small replica painting of DiVinci's Last Supper.  When it came time to choose a musical instrument in 5th Grade, my parents gave me my older brother's used clarinet, because they probably didn't want to spend money on a new, cooler instrument (like the saxophone!) that I would eventually give up anyway.

I ended up quitting the clarinet just like my parents predicted, but not before earning Second Chair.

I worry about nurturing my son in ways that won't subconsciously push him one way or another. Truthfully, my parents wanted me to graduate and find a stable job. There's no room for musicians and poets in their world. They didn't say it, but it was taught. It wasn't until I reached a college-level class before I discovered my love for prose. How sad is that? I go through it in my head the things my parents could have done differently to nurture my literary awareness. It would have taken some creativity, because I was a terrible student. When it came to creativity I was left to my own devices, usually involving Wookies in galaxies far, far away.

I owe a lot to my parents. I don't know many people nowadays who had to start working at a young age  to earn enough money to buy their first car and pay for their own car insurance. I did. I never received a car as a gift, but my blue collar upbringing taught me how to take care of me and mine no matter what. My parents taught me how to survive. And I'll be forever grateful. But I don't want my son to accidentally discover late in life that he was a poet all along.

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