Another father told me that he would never yell at his children because it was the type of behavior that would lead to his kids turning into “unthinking animals.”
When I didn’t respond he took that as a prompt to continue and told me he believed “forward thinking” parents understood that “progressive parenting” meant you explain everything you do to your children every time.
For the next five minutes he regaled me with tales of his parenting skills and theory while I wondered when my number would be called and I would be given an excuse to say goodbye and walk away.
But bureaucracy refused to cooperate and when I saw the line wasn’t moving I shrugged my shoulders and decided to engage.
“When my son was two he tried to run into the street and I yelled at him to stop.”
My companion in line asked me if I thought that was necessary and suggested that perhaps I should have held my son’s hand so that I didn’t have to yell.
“You know we can’t keep our children in bubbles or encase in them in bubble wrap. They have to learn how to do things without us. How many kids do you have and how old are they?”
He looked at me and proudly said he had one child, a bouncing baby boy who was three months old and was already off the charts for every measurable statistic.
I smiled and told him that my oldest is going to be heading off to high school in the fall and suggested he not fall into the trap believing that “forward thinking” and or “progressive” means better.
And then my number was called and the conversation was over.
I didn’t tell the other dad he was stupid, inexperienced or naive because there wasn’t any point in doing so.
I remember how excited I was when I was a new father and how determined I was to do everything better than my parents, grandparents and every great television dad had done.
It is funny to me to look back and remember how certain I was about my ability to do it all because I had access to resources my father and grandfathers never had.
They didn’t need to feel badly about their shortcomings because they didn’t have the tools I had.
If you listen closely you might hear them all laughing now because reality kicked me in the teeth and knocked some sense into me overnight.
I could tell you about sleepless nights spent with babies who were fed and had clean diapers who screamed at us for what felt like countless hours.
We talked to them. We asked them to tell us what was wrong and promised we would fix it and they still screamed.
I remember watching the learning to walk and how I explained to them exactly what they had to do to become expert walkers but that didn’t make them learn how to do it any faster.
It wasn’t because I was a bad teacher either. It was because some learning is done based upon the foundation of knowledge and until you reach a certain level you can’t always advance to the next.
Don’t Suffer From The Stupidity Of Forward Thinking
A while back I sat in on a meeting and listened to a team talk about the importance of being progressive and forward thinking as it related to their business.
They went around the table and asked everyone to pitch ideas and or share thoughts about what they could do to meet those needs and then asked me for my input.
I asked them if they could explain what those expressions mean and why they are important.
It wasn’t because I was trying to be adversarial or because I didn’t have any ideas but I wanted to understand where they were going and what they were trying to do.
I wanted to know if they were using progressive and forward thinking as buzzwords or if they had real meaning.
What I call the stupidity of forward thinking refers to missing the forest for the trees.
There is always merit in taking a hard look at your business and trying to figure out how to more effectively distinguish yourselves from the competition.
It makes sense to try and come up with ways to work smarter and not harder but you need to be careful not to suffer from tunnel vision.
For example if your business offers products and or services for families there is a good chance you’ll start by targeting mothers.
In concept that makes sense but unless it is something that only a mother can use (breast pump, maternity clothing) it would be a mistake not to widen your scope.
Use What Works
I am not saying you don’t use what works. I would absolutely market to mothers but if you don’t include fathers it is a mistake.
Fathers are a significant part of the family makeup and they are involved in every aspect of family life.
I suppose we are still living in a time where targeting fathers for some of these things would actually be progressive and forward thinking.
But the real point is as we said before not to mistake the forest for the trees and get so caught up in trying to be different that you ignore what is proven.
Old isn’t always bad.
Nor is it wrong to try and find a better way. The trick is to find the right blend of the two.
All those new tools and resources I had to work with as a new father didn’t mean that my father and grandfathers didn’t have the same desire to provide their families as I did.
All it meant was there was access to different ways to meet that desire.
Sometimes we forget how the more things change the more they stay the same.
What do you think?