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GUEST COLUMN

Life lessons prove difficult to share

My son, wonderful as he is, has every single one of my flaws. In addition to his inheritance of my awkward physique, he has all of my mental quirks and disagreeable tendencies. Like me, he doesn't see the glass as half full or half empty, he wants something else to drink in a completely different glass.

He talks too much, can't admit when he doesn't know something and lacks patience of any sort. He, of course, has many of my strengths as well given that he's intelligent, clever and has a knack for language that makes you forget he's not quite four-years-old.

This combination of traits does not bode well for his immediate future, since in a couple of years he will enter the public school system, an institution that rewards following directions, shutting up and not challenging authority. Public schools tend to value kids who do as they're told more than precocious, smart children who question everything and always think they know better than the adults.

As a child, I was an awful student and a general pain in the ass who was often disagreeable when it would have been easier to just go with the flow. I had little interest in doing things that weren't easy and I lacked the gene that makes someone want to please authority figures. Most of school did come easy to me, but learning something to my own satisfaction and proving I knew it to the teacher's satisfaction often put me at odds with teachers, administrators and my parents.

The idea of doing my homework simply because I was supposed to never really kicked in and if I didn't learn something by quickly absorbing it, I assumed it was not worth knowing. This, of course, largely proved true, as the areas I had trouble quickly grasping, like advanced math and science have not had any bearing on my life.

That does not mean, however that I was correct to not put any effort into learning those things. While the actual information being taught may not have appealed to me then, or now, there's a value in learning how to do things you don't like, aren't good at or simply see no value in.

Being a responsible employee, adult and parent generally involves doing things you don't want to do and parenting especially seems to require learning how to do a lot of things I'm not particularly good at. Any parent who has suffered through a DVD for the ten thousandth time and every employee who has been stuck with a thankless or pointless task, knows that simply ignoring the work in front of you is an indulgence of youth we all have to learn to give up.

I want my son to challenge authority and truly believe in the idea that somebody is not smarter than you simply because they're older or in charge. I'd also like him to learn, much sooner than I did, though, that being smarter or knowing better doesn't mean you get to always ignore the person in charge.

Daniel B. Kline's work appears in over 100 papers weekly. His new book a collection of columns, Easy Answers to Every Problem, can be ordered at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. Daniel B. Kline can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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