As Alex reaches his eighteenth birthday this month, I feel it is appropriate to make him the next person in my Life Builders Series. The Life Builders posts are meant to acknowledge those people who contributed to the success I have experienced in life. Today I will write a little about my son and share with you some of the ways that he has enhanced my life.
I remember watching one of those animal shows in the late seventies that told the story of a mother bear and her cubs. The show demonstrated how the mother bear protected her cubs and taught them how to survive. When the cubs were old enough to go out on their own, the mother bear changed her relationship to the cubs. She actually become violent, chasing them off so they would stop relying on her. At that point her job was finished and her cubs were ready to fend for themselves.
That show left a lasting impression on me. I have always seen my biggest role as a parent as that of preparing my son for the life he would live as an adult. Some people, especially in today’s society, may think it a bit odd that this teaching role sort of defines the relationship I have with Alex. No matter where we are or what we are doing, I never turn down an opportunity to share the knowledge and wisdom that I feel will make the biggest difference in his life as an adult.
This teaching role was at its height during his first seven years of school because I was his home school teacher. For reasons I will not explain here, I took the responsibility of teaching Alex how to read, how to do basic maths, how to construct a sentence and a paragraph. I taught him history and some science. For eight years of his life I was 100% responsible for his education.
Teaching Alex how to read was by far the most difficult teaching I had ever done. It challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before. I made reading our top priority based on the idea that, if a man can read, he can do anything else he wants. So I stressed the reading over all of the other subjects for that reason.
I can honestly say that my skills as a music teacher would not be what they are today if I hadn’t spent so many years teaching Alex. Not only is it more difficult to teach someone to read for the first time, but with Alex, I also had the advantage of being able to see his study habits and what impact my instruction was having in his daily life. With that constant feedback, I was able to adjust the way I teach according to the feedback I was getting.
As a music private lesson teacher, I never get that kind of feedback. It is impossible to know what my students are doing on their own at home. I can have suspicions. I can try to imagine. But with Alex, I could see it with my own eyes.
Regular Father Stuff
Of course, there is always the typical father stuff that I believe always makes a better man out of the father who takes his roles seriously. Before Alex was born, things were different in my life. The new responsibilities gave me an environment to grow in.
Okay, I just thought of a great example. When I first moved to Houston, I wrote in my journal that one of my greatest strengths as a teacher was that I could relate to the kids I was teaching. In many ways I still felt like I was one of them. In fact, in those early days of my teaching career, my students always called me by my first name and I treated them all like friends.
After Alex was born, that began to change. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t relate to the students anymore. I hope that part never changes. But I began to see my responsibilities more clearly, not just my responsibilities to my family but also to each of my students. It became increasingly more difficult to teach them as a friend the way I used to.
Today I consider this sense of responsibility an asset to my teaching, not a detriment. I am not buddies with my students. We are not just hanging out. I have a responsibility to them that was only realized in my life after Alex was born.
There are a great many wonderful things I could list about Alex, but the topic here is not “How Wonderful Is Alex?” The topic is specifically “How has Alex contributed to my successes in life?” There are other ways that he has contributed to my life, but they are too personal to share in a public medium like this. But let me just end with this one thing that is slightly off topic. I am proud of you, Alex, for making the choices you have made and having enthusiasm to take responsibility of your own life. The closer we get to the day you strike out on your own, the more proud I am of you for all that you have done. I love you. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and let His Holy Spirit take you to your greatest heights.