Entrepreneur, Vilcabamba, Ecuador
It’s nearing my 27th birthday. I am still ostensibly very young and just beginning my journey into adulthood. Yet, I feel as though I have already lived many mini-lives in a rapid period of time.
Since 18, I’ve tried to learn as much as I could about the way our world rears children. I had to prepare for the day when my kids would rely on me as their creator, caretaker, and teacher about the world around them. To this end, I put myself into positions where I could observe the parenting and teaching styles of as many cultures as possible, each with their own flaws, values, and objectives.
Being reared in public school in California, I burned with curiosity to know of a better way to pass on information to future generations. The global unwillingness to treat children as individuals saddens me deeply. I could not accept that this was the best way we’ve figured out how to interact with our children.
I used teaching and private mentoring experiences to learn from the parenting mistakes of others. I made it my mission to practice the skill of parenting on pseudo-siblings and faux-offspring in every chance I could get. I observed that every family unit carries its own narrative on what parenting is supposed to be, and what a successful child looks like. These narratives go on to shape almost everything about how a child sees himself and the world throughout his life.
Travel brought me to the inner workings of government schools in China–monolithic empires where children spend 14 hours a day being bred into subservience. Later, I came to live with a Chinese family as a tutor for their young children, which gave me rare insight into the struggles of a family that sought to break out of the constraints of their culture.
In the Kurdish region of Iraq, I saw how the wealthy could send their children to private schools which overwhelmed them with as much information as possible and achieving high test scores on quarterly assessments. Automatic firearms guarded every entrance, and school buses were checked for hidden explosives daily. Still, the gears of the machine kept turning.
At an Italian Montessori preschool, infants and toddlers were given more chances to play outside and experiment with artistic output. Their time every day still fell into a strict pattern of acceptable activities, and rarely were they allowed to truly explore the depths of their creativity on their own terms.
In my mind, the role of a father is to give his children the physical, intellectual, and emotional tools they will need to live in the world. Beyond basic survival skills, they should be empowered to forge a path unique to their own passions. The good parent walks a fine line between watching over them, without actively inhibiting their exploration of the world. It means encouraging their curiosity without controlling it.
Our children should be able to look up to us as living examples of what they are capable of–not as enforcers of rules and limitations. Though my childhood influences linger on my subconscious to this day, I know I am not forced to repeat the same patterns my parents and culture instilled onto me.
This is a fear which pervades the minds of many future and recent parents. Because we don’t believe in our own abilities to teach our kids how the world works, we outsource the most important parts of our children’s upbringing to institutions which hold no accountability for ignoring the unique needs of every child. We must believe in ourselves first before we can shape a future for our children.
To be the father my future children deserve, I must pursue the same boundless self-expansion I wish for them. This means challenging myself to always learn more and take on difficult tasks. It means remembering to look at unfamiliar things with childlike enthusiasm (as an aside: if you ever need to be reminded of what pure unbridled curiosity looks like, spend more time with cats; be like the cat).
It is my responsibility to foster an environment where they will receive abundant access to the support that makes their success possible. This kind of influence is what modern schools attempt to provide by shuffling our kids through many teachers and immersing them in a sea of unsegregated peers. They randomize social influence, and remove all parental discretion from the process. I made it my mission to find the places on earth where I can affect the social influences which will shape children as they break out into the world around them.
Many older parents unconsciously feel threatened by their children’s vitality. To them, it is a reminder of the youth they’ve lost. I will make it my mission to meet my children where they live—to eagerly jump into strange new worlds and figure challenges out one piece at a time. I have to know I am adaptable enough to adjust to whatever they can throw at me, and change my own actions to give them everything they need.
Schooling as we know it as a product of a society that expects individuals to change to fit its traditions. I want my children to be among the first of a new generation which boldly attempts to remake the world in their image–to expect obsolete designs to adapt to them and not the other way around. But I can only make that happen if I am there during the most crucial moments of their development–and always pushing myself to grow as a father at a rate which exceeds their expanding identities.