K-Man’s birthday is tomorrow, so I’ve been going over the mental checklist of how much he’s grown and developed over these three years. I keep thinking about how good I feel that he seems to be a pretty happy little guy. He definitely has his passions (firefighters) and I’m quite aware of our efforts to support those passions (by going to firehouses every freakin’ day!) even if it’s a pain in the arse! But, as the hours tick toward the anniversary of his birth, I find myself thinking about something beyond passion and dreams. I’m spending a great deal of time thinking about decisions.
I want K-Man to chase his dreams. G-d knows I’ve spent (wasted?) a lot of time writing about dreams. But, I almost feel that it’s more important that I teach him how to make decisions. I’m not talking about making “the right” decision. I’m just talking about making decisions. I want him to have the ability to avoid suffering when faced with picking A or B.
We’ve all faced smaller decisions – to go left or right. Forward or backward. But, we’ve also all had those “sliding doors” decisions that may result in changing the course of our lives. Do we go through the sliding door and see what’s on the other side, or do we stay on the side we’re on? When I was 26 years old, I faced one such decision. To this day, I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the gig at ESPN. I don’t regret it…I just wonder.
Similarly, when I was a freshman in high school, I faced a choice between continuing to play music (I was a pretty good trumpet player back in the day), or playing soccer (not too shabby there, either). When I chose soccer, my music teacher told me I was making a grave mistake and that I’d stop playing. He was right. That's another of those decisions that I don’t really regret, but I do sometimes wonder how good I could have been with the trumpet.
Those are big decisions. And, when the time came to make them, I made them and moved on. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look back and wonder “what if?” But, they didn’t paralyze me with fear. I didn’t think that I had ruined my life in any way with a “wrong choice.”
I have family members who have been tormented by the decision-making process. More than suffering “paralysis by analysis,” they truly suffer over making any decision. Black shoes vs. brown shoes could be a two- or three-day process. Decisions are torturous. I need to make sure that K-Man doesn’t suffer that fate. (At the very least, I hope he can decide between shoe styles! Hell, buy ‘em both.)
We all know some of those parenting “tricks.” Don’t give the kid open options. Instead, ask, “Would you like A or B?” “Would you like to go to 1 or 2?” This puts boundaries on the options, but also allows them to feel like they’ve had input into the plans. In short, they’ve made a decision. I think that’s the most important element of this kind of “plan.” It’s not so much that they feel important for having a role in any plans – it's that we’re teaching our kids to decide.
Chase those dreams. But, in order to do so…there are some serious decisions that need to be made. And, after we’ve made those decisions, what follows? More decisions. I’m glad I didn’t take that ESPN gig. I’m glad that I chose to play soccer. The thing is…I can still play the trumpet if I want to. That’s the next lesson: After you’ve made your decisions, learn to own up to them if they are wrong, and leverage the heck out of the right ones.
I haven’t read much about teaching “decision-making” as an important growth lesson for parents to pass on to kids. I think it’s key. Whatever you think…it’s up to you to decide.