Father Knows Best? Not Always. What My Kids Have Taught Me

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This St. Patrick’s Day must be extra lucky because March 17 this year also happens to be Incredible Kid Day. Held every third Thursday in March, the idea is to take a moment to tell your kids just how incredible they are. I try to make a point of telling my kids how much I love them on a weekly basis, but now’s my chance to share some of my growing pains with you.

When bringing up children, it’s clearly our job to teach them to be honest and honorable people. As a parent, you hope to set an example for them to live by and refer to when they encounter tough times. But like all of us, I’ve sometimes fallen short — going so far, on occasion, as showing my two kids exactly what not to do.

That’s its own sort of lesson for them, but it’s also a lesson to me. It has been humbling but oddly pleasing to see my children tell me when I could have navigated a situation with more grace and kindness. Those moments of feedback are a blessing. I know it must take a lot of courage to tell one of your parents when they’re not at their best. I am hopeful that both of my children will continue to say, “Papa, you were wrong,” and that I’ll be able to continue accepting their criticisms with love and humility.

My wife, Tala, and I have tried to raise our children to become self-motivated individuals who have the courage to go after what they want in life. Even when they were very young children, we were impressed by the determination and grit they showed when facing a challenge.

Our oldest, Alecia, started taking ice skating lessons when she was 6. She was talented, and her coaches said she had competitive potential. When she was 8 or 9, she decided to compete in a Christmas show at SkateQuest in Reston, Virginia. She won, and that helped to trigger her interest in competitive ice skating, which has been a passion for her ever since. In addition to skating, Alecia’s had many other outside interests growing up and did an amazing job balancing her time.

With hard work and determination in solo ice dancing, Alecia went to nationals multiple times and even competed on a synchronized ice-skating team that took third at nationals. It was inspiring to see the determination and excitement she had for this sport. Now, as she is completing her last semester of college, I know that her ability to dedicate herself to a task will serve her well throughout her life.

Our son Nicholas has also shown an aptitude for both school and athletics. In sports, Nicholas loved baseball through grade school and high school but, one summer, he asked to go to a pole-vaulting camp on a whim. He did extraordinarily well at a pole-vaulting camp in South Carolina and cleared almost 10 feet after only three days of practice.

At first, he was pulled back to his love of baseball, but the word of his pole-vaulting potential spread. Eventually, the high school pole vaulting coach approached him and stated that if he’d cleared almost 10 feet in only three days, he could definitely add a foot to his personal record during his sophomore winter track season. Nicholas ended up clearing 11’6” during this first season and he received the “most improved” award from the head coach for that accomplishment. In his senior winter track season, he cleared 14 feet, and he took fourth in the state in pole vaulting and was looking forward to the spring season, only to have it canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to studying mechanical engineering, Nicholas continues to pole vault in college.

I’m so happy to see our kids, now 22 and 20, become such close friends. When they were young teenagers, they would on occasion bump heads and frustrate each other. But as they got older, they started connecting more and more. Not too long ago, Alecia invited Nicholas to a concert at her college to see the singer, Max, perform. During the concert, Alecia “volunteered” Nicholas to sing the rap portion of a song with Max. So, at the edge of the stage, Nicholas performed a short duet with Max. As exciting as it was for Nicholas, Alecia was just as excited to see her brother have such a wonderful experience. I love that they enjoy spending time together, and I know their shared intensity will open many doors for them in life.

For me as a dad, bringing up our children has at times felt like driving in a car where you and your child both have a steering wheel. For my part, I thought I had to keep a death grip on the wheel. The hardest lesson I had to learn as a parent was how to ease up on my grip and let Alecia and Nicholas take over. But as tough as it was, it has been even more rewarding to watch them steer!  


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