When I was growing up, you were expected to have a certain look, behavior and interest to fit in with your group at school. Everyone pretty much wore the same clothes, listened to the same music, and partied at the same old location every weekend. This lasted all the way up until graduation, when we all split. Some went to college, some went to work, while others were just lost. I was the lost one.
I spent my entire life copying someone else, fitting in, and developing skills that society said I needed. After that, I was clueless on what to do when I left school. I battled with higher education, but ultimately lost the war. My teachers from the past let me slide by through grade school, because I was the funny kid they felt bad for.
You would think I’m writing this to young boys and girls, but my focus is really to capture the parent’s attention. Looking back, I wish my parents would have challenged me more, dared me to be different, maybe even pushed me to get creative. That never happened.
I have twin boys of my own now. They’re 6 months old and not a day goes by that I don’t think about what they’re going to be, how they’re going to turn out, or if they’re going to be bullied, popular, creative, among other things. It’s just a father’s nature to wonder about his kid’s future—well, most fathers. I’m not saying I want to run my kid’s life or be in charge of every step. I just want to be able to help when challenges come up.
I want to be able to push when the time is right and back off when the time is wrong. I understand we as humans have to develop our own path, make our own choices, and grab hold of our future’s reigns, but I also believe a father and mother are responsible for helping teach those lessons early on.
I don’t have a perfect formula for raising children. Quite frankly, I’m fairly new at it. Like I said, I have only been a father for six months, and I will probably do a lot of things wrong, but my main goal is to challenge my kids without pushing them away. I want to challenge them to be different.
I will teach them that fear is a choice, but it’s not wrong to choose it sometimes. I will tell them “fitting in” doesn’t mean being yourself. I want them to know that education is very important, but it might not make sense at times. Most importantly, I just want to be there to listen, and I pray that God gives me the knowledge and words to reply.
This post originally appeared on Medium.