As a dad with daughters (or sons), one of your primary responsibilities is to help them with school projects. Putting stereotypes aside, or attempting to cause outrage with my 1950’s assumptions, at least in my house (and many others that I know of), mom acts as the project manager. Scheduling time for your child to work on her project. Making sure that she has gone to the library and searched the web for the proper research materials. Helping them write the report and typing it up on the computer. Then comes you, the dad. You come armed with your tools, scrap building materials, and your unrelenting desire to build something cool.
If this is not you, then you probably want to stop reading right here. But if this sounds familiar, then I’m sure you can relate. My girls are young, both still in elementary school. Yet, there have been many projects that I have done, I mean, have been asked to help with from my kids. The problem is that us dads have egos. A need for whatever we build to be worthy of us, something we’re willing to put our name on, even if it’s only our last. And so the project begins. The child will be eager to help, often full of ideas. Then suddenly (after 2 hours have passed), you’re assigning little tasks to your kid that keeps them as far away from your masterpiece as possible.
By the time you’re finished (after something like 7 hours), your child is asleep. But you can feel the wonder as you watch the small styrofoam moons of Jupiter use the power of the rotisserie motor from your old grill to slowly orbit the painted ball solidly mounted on the perfectly cut and sanded wooden base. When your child sees it the next day she is also in wonder. Not necessarily because she recognizes the feat of engineering that you pulled off last night, but because she feels like it is hers, and she barely had to do anything.
But then you think about. You ask yourself if this is really worth it. Sure, your daughter gets full credit from the teacher (even though the teacher knows full well that your child doesn’t have an engineering degree from MIT). You certainly feel satisfied that your work was of sufficient quality, so you’ve got that. But then you realize something even more important: you just spent a few hours with your child demonstrating what it means to be passionate about something. Showing them what the culmination of life experience, education, and drive looks like and what it can accomplish.
If there is anything I want for my daughters, it’s for them to be passionate about something. I don’t care what it is. It can be art, science, math, literature, or garbage collection. Actions speak louder than words, and sometimes just being present is more than enough to ingrain life lessons in your children.
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