My oldest son turned the corner to 18 recently. Nine years old seems so young, but considering the blur that was the last nine, it’s hard to believe the next will be any different. Should I be doing more? Less? Am I more worried about failing or not doing everything I can? Fear of Failure (FOF) or Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)?
I look at him and can’t imagine loving anyone any deeper. He is me. I want so much for him. I see a game plan and at the same time, I recognize that even at nine he is he. Even now, it’s not my game plan. It’s his. The goal can’t be to give him the same experiences and thoughts I had as a kid. It’s not to turn him into a better version of myself.
I thought I was closer to figuring him out, and now we’re turning a new corner. Now the choice is to either lean in and allow this corner help build positive momentum and embrace the ambiguity the next nine years are sure to bring. Or we can resist and allow the corner to take longer and pull us apart.
He came to mind while recently listening to this Dharma talk from Jack Kornfield. He was sharing about the perfection of patience. Helping us to think about the growth of others and ways we can approach them with the same patience we yearn for ourselves. And of course, if you have ever listened to more than a few minutes from Jack you came out the other end better for it.
He shared the parable: Frog and Toad Together: The Garden, by Arnold Lobel.
Toad learns how hard, but necessary it is to leave seeds alone if you want them to grow. You can’t yell, poke, and prod at seeds and expect them to grow of course. Make sure they have good soil, water, and sunlight. Beyond that, our interventions may get in the way rather than help. Maybe doing less is better. But how do we reconcile doing less with our insatiable thirst for more? Our need to do something in order to feel better about ourselves. When do interventions get in the way of personal development? It seems that so often our FOF leads to over-intervention. I fall prey to this need to intervene both at work and at home. At some point, our interventions turn selfish. At some point, are we intervening to make ourselves feel better that we did everything we possibly could rather than giving the other person the time and space to grow?
Perhaps it’s this need to act that elevates our FOF and FOMO and in the end often a feeling of discontent. Tara Brach and Jack recently forced me to confront both. Thank you so much. Tara has been my companion through many life passages and I encourage you to find a quiet hour sometime soon to listen to any of her talks or read her books.
Her recent talk on this topic is below, and the podcast is here.
Is it Fear of Failure and Fear of Missing Out? A fear of failure as a father and fear of missing out as a father and human. I think it’s both and neither. The older I get the more I realize it is everything at the same time.
Perhaps this struggle with FOF and FOMO is something new he and I can bond around. I see both in his eyes as he struggles with turning the corner from kid to pre-teen at the same time I’m working through the passage from my third to fourth decade. I’m not sure anything is more useful to help him learn over the next nine years than the ability to recognize these two emotions. Recognizing the anxiety these two emotions creates and cultivating the ability to work within it will carry much more weight and continue to pay dividends long after GPA or class ranks are long forgotten.
Thanks for listening.