Give them a compass

Last night my wife and I watched the first few episodes of the new show, Grown-ish, the new spinoff to our family favorite Black-ish.  It stars the oldest daughter of the original show headed off to college (think this generation’s Different World).  While watching the episodes last night we both found ourselves reminiscing about our own formative college experiences as young adults.  We started off laughing hysterically (at least over the jokes that we understood), but then as the show went on, our hilarity shifted to concern.  Was this really what we were like as college students?  Is this what’s possibly in store for our girls as they grow up?  Now we were wearing our parenting hats.  My wife voiced our concern in this admonition, I hope our daughters are better prepared to make decisions when they get out on their own.

Interestingly enough, the idea of having clear values to guide decision-making has been a re-occuring theme lately.  Just earlier that day my business partner and I finalized our corporate mission and value statement, which we then used to vet a potential client.  Our values are the lens through which we view our choices, they serve as our moral compass.    As parents we should be intentional about ensuring our kids have one and know how to use it.  That was our aha moment last night.  The challenge is that most adults haven’t spent the necessary time interrogating what they believe and why, consequently lots of folks live “lost” lives wandering and wondering.  I believe it’s one of the great tragedies of parenting.

Thinking back to both of our college experiences last night we both wondered, how did we arrive at some of the decisions we made?  Sure, we wandered a bit like any young adult does when they’re testing new boundaries.  We both engaged in some questionable behavior that likely didn’t align with our values.  And yet, we each can point to moments throughout our young adulthood where we came face to face with a value conflict and we had to make a choice.  Interestingly enough, one of those decisions for both of us happened at the same time, it’s the story of how we would eventually start dating.   We could argue that our compass led us to each other.

I remember it like it was yesterday…sitting in Longstreet (our freshman dorm where we both lived- she on the 4th floor and me on the 2nd).  Side note, now as a father of three daughters ask me if I’m a fan of co-ed dorms…I can tell you 18 year old Samuel was.  Back to the story, it was Thursday night, famously known as college night out on our campus.  Everyone around us was “pre-gaming” as we hung out in one of our friend’s rooms.  After a little while we noticed that we were the only people left in the room.  Everyone else was off to the first party, club, or bar, meanwhile we’re still there just hanging out still talking.  That’s when it hit us- we both asked why the other person hadn’t left yet and we realized that neither one of us were really “about that life” .  I mean, we went to parties and hung out from time to time, but it wasn’t really our thing.  So we kept talking and discovered that we had more in common and the rest is history!

I hope my daughters have a similar story of their own one day.  I hope that as they clarify what they believe and why, our influence on their lives helps them to find their way.  I’m convinced that the best way to help them is to model our own values through how we spend time, money, and energy as a family.  I’m not so much concerned about the wondering and wandering phase.  Everyone strays from time to time, people get lost and then find their way back.  I just hope that it’s short lived enough to minimize damage.




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