I believe I’ve spoken before about my son’s obsession with LEGO. This was one of those things that crept in like a thief in the night. Here we were, waiting for the great, amazing obsession of our son’s life to blossom like a rose, so that we could finally know what it is that he would be doing for the rest of his life. Because, isn’t it when you’re in your 20s or 30s (or 40s or 50s), after you’ve gotten off-track and dicked around and been hurt and ultimately taken the wrong road that doesn’t lead to your ultimate end-result, that you start asking questions like, “What am I meant to be doing? What is my passion? What am I here for?”
Inevitably, some wise sage comes along and says something to the effect of, “What did you want to do when you were a kid?” Before you had any responsibilities. Before you had any cares. Before you actually had to think about, “How am I going to make money?” What did you want to do?
We’re terribly in-touch parents, and as we have only one child, we tend to fixate on things like this. So, we kept an eye out. What was it going to be? We didn’t care, we just wanted to know. A zookeeper at Australia Zoo? That was on the cards for a bit. Filmmaker? That was an option, too. He would often tell us that it would be this or that (like a drone pilot or a chef), but what he showed us was generally something different.
Through it all, lingering in the background like a smell that simply wouldn’t dissipate, was an ever growing mountain of LEGO. Practically from the moment he wakes up to the time he goes to sleep, he’s playing with LEGO, or looking through LEGO books, or thinking about what he’s going to build next. We even went so far as to move halfway around the world (again) to the Midwest of the United States to give him the wide-open spaces where I grew up. See, we thought he was just spending too much time in his room, playing with LEGO. We suffered over it! We thought that we’d robbed our child of the ability to play outside, by living so close to the beach (*smacks head*). So, we moved…
Now, we’re here in Kansas, and the Airbnb in which we’re staying is literally covered in LEGO. He doesn’t step foot outside unless he’s forced to. (Can’t bring LEGO outside, after all. You might lose it.) It really wasn’t until his birthday when we took a trip to LEGOLAND in Kansas City, and we spent the entire day absorbed in all things LEGO, stopping only to eat (much to his chagrin). We got him a new box to play with when he got home, and he hopped immediately out of the car, and went in to build it. He’d played with LEGO before we left. He’d played with LEGO all day, and even walked around a building completely devoted to LEGO. LEGO was in his sight nearly every waking moment, and when he got home, what did he do? Opened his new box of LEGO.
When Your Children Baffle You
Since going to LEGOLAND, he knows what he wants to do: LEGO Master Builder, as well as being on the design team for Star Wars LEGO builds. (Long live, Star Wars! Long live, LEGO!) But, ya know… that’s kid stuff, right? Sooner or later, he’s got to grow up, doesn’t he?
What do we do when our children take a course of life that surprises, shocks, or completely befuddles us? My wife did that. She was living large, the most popular girl in school, a straight-A student at one of the best private high schools in Australia. She was all set to become either a top surgeon, lawyer or politician. Each of those roles would have suited her just fine. Given her perfectionist streak, she would have excelled at any of them and dominated the industry.
So, with the world as her oyster and the sky as her limit, what did she do? She dropped out of high school a year before finishing. I can only imagine the look on my father-in-law’s face when he was told the news. This man had worked an horrific job for 40+ years to pay for the schooling of his two girls. He was a devoted father when it came to provision, there is no doubt about that. It would have been a kick in the balls for his daughter to drop out of high school; to not go to college; to not pursue the “excellence” for which she’d been groomed.
But, that’s the problem. She was groomed for excellence, all right; a particular type of excellence. As a matter of fact, there were only a few professions that came with the label of “excellent” as far as her family was concerned, and anything other than those professions warranted the “failure” label.
“Happiness? Peace? Serenity? That’s for hippies and she’s not allowed to be a hippie. Hippies are poor and live in the forest. She can’t be a hippie. She won’t be a hippie, and I’ll be damned if the excellence I’ve bought and paid for will be sacrificed for something as abstruse as ‘happiness’!”
“My Son Plays with LEGO For a Living”
I was told early on in my son’s life that I needed to “steer the ship.” From the advice-giver, that means steer it towards an “excellent” profession. I changed the meaning and decided that I would, in fact, steer the ship, but that I would steer it towards excellence in whatever decision he would make.
While in Kansas City, I spoke with the Master Builder’s Apprentice (yes, there is such a thing). At that point, it had become fairly clear that my son wasn’t going to let this LEGO thing go. I wanted to know what were the long-term prospects for my son should he choose a career with LEGO. Apparently, the Apprentices don’t make that much. The Master Builders do a bit better. But, ultimately, unless you’re one of the top, top, top people in LEGO, you get a fairly average wage like everyone else. As an entrepreneurial father, fairly obsessed with making money, this obviously concerns me. Like other parents, I want the absolute best for my son, and that means a lot of money. Johnny Cash said, “Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money.” That’s basically what I want for Jesse. Because, I’ve worried about money before, and it’s not fun.
Johnny Cash said, “Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money.”Share!
But, here’s the point: It’s not my life. It is not my decision; what to do with his life. It is not my ship to steer. The best I can do is travel alongside his ship for a short while as one of those tugboats with rubber bumpers on the side of it, nudging him in the direction of excellence whenever possible. Is it effort? Hell, yes! I gotta fly around his big lumbering ship, nudging this way then pushing that. It’s exhausting! But I know that at the end of the day, I will have done my job and done it right.
He will have no need to be a doctor or a lawyer. He will not feel that he will lose my love if he chooses to be a Master Builder, an Apprentice, or the guy who makes the Apprentice’s eggs at the diner down the street from where the Apprentice lives. So long as he is chasing personal excellence, as in: as a person – he will make me proud.
I’ve dealt with the expectations of parents. So has my wife. So have you, probably. Let’s not do that to our kids. Or, rather, instead of expecting them to excel in our predetermined roles, how about we just expect them to be good people, great at everything they decide to undertake? Because then, as a parent, you’re covered. You’ve given them encouragement, and expected the excellence you want from them. When they fail, give up, or choose not to follow through with something, the reason is that they simply decided not to apply themselves. But, they will at something else. Let them keep searching. It’s not your ship.