I’m kind of a typical guy, about average height, about average weight. I grew up in the 70’s as the middle kid in a family of five. I was a cute, dumb, clumsy kid with below average athletic ability.
We lived in a normal house in the middle of the street in the center of a neighborhood in a suburb of Los Angeles in the middle of Southern California. My mom was a part-time substitute teacher. My dad was an aerospace engineer. We lived in a nice, middle-class suburb on a nice, wide street with a bunch of nice families, whose dads all seemed to be engineers working for the space program. My dad was a quiet man of few words. My mom was a loud lady with a lot of energy.
We looked like a middle-class family of medium income, but we were always broke. My mom and dad had five kids in eight years, one right after the next. To feed all the kids and run our household on my father’s modest income my parents ran a very tight budget. And they were very good at not spending any money.
Because my mom and dad had lived through tough times when there was no stuff and no money they were really good at scrimping and saving. Most of our clothes came from second-hand stores and all of my clothes were hand-me-downs that my mother had bought for my brother from thrift shops, hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs.
Our house was loud, crazy and violent. My mother used fear and intimidation to try to control her rambunctious kids. Her favorite strategy to keep us in line was to pit the kids against each other so that she didn’t have to do all the beating. If one of us got too loud or out of line, she would tell my older brother to take care of it. And he loved nothing more than torturing one of his younger siblings.
Being the middle kid in the family, I was the needy, insecure goofball. I was loud and braggadocios. I was the tallest kid in class but always the slowest. My younger sisters were cute and pretty. My older sister was smart. My mom loved my older brother the best, and I was stuck in the middle.
I wasn’t really bright enough to figure out school. I was the class clown, the troublemaker in the back, the guy that was always looking for a way to blow things up. I was caustically compelled to act out. Overcompensating for being stuck in the middle, I was the kid that had to take a fall or tell a joke to get attention.
Growing up I never felt secure. I never felt safe. I was always off balance. I had no foundation. I had no place to stand. The ground under my feet was constantly quivering like a landfill in an earthquake.
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to have kids. I wanted to have a family. I knew I wanted to have kids, but I didn’t want to have kids and then put them through the kind of crap that I went through when I was growing up.
I wanted to have a family, but I wanted to have a better family. I wanted to do a better job than my mom and dad did.
I guess that is pretty normal. I guess that is the typical thing that the typical guy wants to do. He wants to do a little bit better than his mom and dad did.
But I’m not your typical dad.
I had trouble in school, so I left and went skiing. I was a ski bum for about ten years before I woke up and realized that this was kind of a dumb way to live. Life was too easy.
So I went back to school. I graduated from the University of Arizona with an engineering degree. I was ten years older than most of the other kids in my class.
So early in life, I had a mix and jumble of two very different lifestyles. I spent ten years as an international vagabond ski bum, and then I went back to school to study calculus. This experience taught me to think in two very different ways. The first way was kind of the hipster/beat/philosopher. With time on my hands, I read a lot of Nietzsche.
The second life was more pragmatic. As an engineer, you learn how to see base reality with logic, reason and cold hard facts. Engineers see the world in a very different way than normal people. They have to deal with the real world. Engineers have to understand the fundamentals of reality for what it really is. They have to do this because they need to design reliable products like cars and airplanes. Engineers need to design and build stuff that doesn’t break. They need to understand base reality because if they don’t do their job right and they build stuff that breaks, people die.
So I went back to school. I went back to school because I wanted to do something hard. Engineering was hard so that fit into the plan. Around the same time, I got married. I knew that marriage was hard so I thought, at the time, that this would be a good plan, doing two really hard things at the same time.
I got married to a very smart woman. She also decided to go back to school to get her Ph.D. from UCLA.
When my wife decided that she wanted to start trying to have kids, she was very sweet about it. She made a little ceremony out of the asking. She made me a special present. She brought me into the kitchen of our one-bedroom apartment and she gave me a small box. In the box was a gold chain necklace. On the chain was a small golden figure. The figure on the chain was kind of like the 30,000-year-old Venus figure of a pregnant mother.
I knew instantly what she was trying to say. I knew what she meant, and I knew what she wanted.
I was scared and I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t matured. Or, better, I hadn’t evolved. I was still greedy and selfish. I hadn’t yet grown through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
I was working at a job that I hated trying to make enough money to do something spectacular. I wanted more. I wasn’t ready to have kids. I wanted to have gotten something important done. I wanted to be more successful and established. I figured that once we started having kids it was over. My life as I knew it was finished. I didn’t want to bring another life into this world before I was done with mine. I wasn’t done yet. And I felt like I hadn’t done enough.
Have you ever felt that way?
Looking back I realize that I hadn’t taken the time to define my values, and I had adopted trivial, shallow, media-driven goals.
I never asked myself about purpose. I don’t think I had ever really thought about life that way. I had things that I wanted to do. I had an idea, a vision really, about what an exciting life would look like. I had done a lot of exciting things and I had this idea that I wanted to do a lot more exciting things.
At the center of all of this was “I”.
I was at the center of everything. I wasn’t really aware of any other way to think about life. I had been building my life on a set of experiences, a list of things that I wanted to accomplish; I hadn’t ever thought that there might be a better way to organize a life.
Have you ever wondered about stuff like this?
Have you ever asked yourself -
What is my purpose?
Why am I here?
Have you ever thought that it might be a good idea to write down your values? And then maybe design your purpose around your values?
I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t plan; I improvised, to me that was the most exciting way to live. It is exciting but it gets really sketchy. When you don’t plan things out you can end up running down dead ends or painting yourself into a corner.
I was running full speed, around blind corners, dumping paint into dead ends, not slowing for a moment to wonder why. I had never really asked where I was going, what road I was on or where that road was headed.
I had never asked myself if I should even be chasing after all of the stuff that I was chasing. What was that stuff? Did I really want that stuff? Was that stuff ever going to bring me happiness or fulfillment?
I didn’t see it at the time but I was setting myself up for a huge crash, a big disaster.
So why write this book? What is this book about? What compels a sixty-year-old guy to stop and write a book about raising children?
I’m writing this book because I wanted to tell other guys what I know. I thought that if I could share my experiences I might be able to save other fathers from the pain and suffering of making a major mistake.
I want to help other fathers not make the same mistakes that I have made.
I wanted to teach fathers what I have learned.
I see guys struggle with their position and place and purpose, and I wanted to share a different point of view.
I see a lot of dads bumbling around looking like they don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know how to be a dad. And that hurts me. As an empathetic human, I feel their pain. I figure that if I could just give them a few pointers I could make their lives so much easier.
So I started to write this. I started with my understanding that –
the cornerstone of society
is the family
and the foundation of the family is
When we had our first child, I had no idea what I was doing. I read a bunch of books. Some of them were good, but most of them were like cook books. They talked about how to do stuff. Put in some of this and then put in some of that and then do this and then do that. That’s great. Everybody needs an owner’s manual. But that’s not what this book is about. As the hipster/beat/philosopher/engineer, I wanted to know the answers to deeper questions.
I wanted to know stuff like:
How could I take a fragile loaf of phlegm and help it develop into a powerful, charismatic, empathetic human?
How do I teach my kids to be strong-willed but also kind?
How do I teach my kids to be self-reliant and independent and at the same time keep them rooted in family and committed to culture and community?
How can I teach my kids to lead full and exciting lives and teach them that 90% of limitations are self-imposed and that they are only as free as they think they are?
How can I raise cool, calm and peaceful kids that know how to dance?
How can I guide their lives in a positive direction and away from negative, violent situations?
And how can I do this better than my mom and dad did?
That is what this book is about.
These are the kinds of questions that I answer in this book.
It took me more than 20 years to figure this out.
It is still a work in progress and I still have time to mess it up, but here is what I’ve learned. Here is what I know. And here is what I am going to share with you.
This book is not just the how but the why.
This book is about not just being a dad but being a purposeful parent.
This book is about how to become a Superdaddy so that you can raise superhero kids.
But wait –
There is more.
If you are patient with me, if you stick around to the end, I might tell you more.
I might tell you the whats and the whys.
What is our purpose?
Why are we here?
Why have kids?
What is the point?
What is the reason that we do all of this?
Why should we choose life?
And maybe, just maybe:
What is the meaning of life?