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The Default Dance

How to Get Mindful about Parenting

I was talking with a friend who was having a hard time with his son. His son was obsessed with a video game that was sweeping the nation. His concerns: what will happen to his social life, his relationship with his brother, his schoolwork, will he stop going outside to play?

I started hearing a number of parents complaining about the same game. These were the parents of armchair-diagnosed teenaged Fortnite “addicts”.

Becoming the detached observer. 

Instead of joining the growing outcry, which is always tempting, I decided I would sit with my kids while they played. Occasionally, hours at a time. 

I would get very curious as to why it was so satisfying for each of them. When they won we would celebrate and when they lost we would discuss. Sometimes I would even chip in money for a “new skin”. 

I watched closely as their friend groups expanded. They were playing with kids that they didn’t previously socialize with: kids from younger grades, cousins from far-away states, people from all over. 

Was it possible (we) the parents had it wrong? 

What I think is true of everything, especially of parenting, is that it is primarily about our own level of consciousness. 

Am I bringing fear to the situation? Am I, in fact, using my own shaky childhood to parent? Or am I the observer? Able to see their essence as they go in and out of what they love to do? 

Regarding Fortnite, it wore off after a year of good fun.  

Resist the wisdom dump. 

There was a kid, Ishan Goel, at Joe Polish’s Genius Networking event, college-aged. He was the kid who made the egg go viral on Instagram. He mentioned that he left college early because it “wasn’t for him”. 

Of course, I approached him. I let him know that I thought college wasn’t really about the classes, but about meeting people, living with people, having fun. I was worried he might be missing out.

He explained that “college fun” to him looked like people living together in a shitty house and eating ramen. He was living in a house with his peers but instead of fellow students they were fellow instagram influencers. The house was very, very nice. And what they did for peer-based fun was fly to Paris.

Turns out, he didn’t need my wisdom. Because my wisdom is based on my own experience. The world, youth, youth experiences, what’s good, what’s not so good, it keeps shifting. 

Kids don’t want our wisdom dumps. In fact, they can’t even hear it. 

Instead, we wait for them to come to us. Wait for the open window, my therapist Norman would say. 

Charge your Tesla before you drive. 

Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, has taught me the importance of charging our internal battery first before we start driving.

The deeper level of parenting is indeed attending to oneself. The better I treat myself, the better I am as a parent, both in the short term and with the long game. 

I have to ask myself from time to time:

  • Am I kind to myself? 
  • Am I too busy again? 
  • Am I spending the present moment thinking about the past? Or lost in future expectations? 
  • Have I (again) slipped into being not enough or needing to prove something? 

If you are doing what fills you up, I guarantee that you will protect your child’s right to do what fills them up. 

We push our lack into our children, and then we end up raising them as negative projections of ourselves.

My wife Katie introduced me to the brilliant Dr. Shefali Tsabary who says: “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature.”

Run it through the heart.

Witness and discover who your children are, and encourage them with whatever that is. 

To be mindful as a parent is to remember this. 

On a trip to LA, I was approached by a woman who pointed out that her son had made the hoodie I was wearing. I was excited to meet her because I loved her son’s clothing company, I was following her son on Instagram.

He had always been into fashion, making clothes and expressing himself in all kinds of interesting ways. He was flying her out to see him, first class. As I expressed my admiration for his success, she told me that she just loved and supported him at every step. 

A multigenerational rural Ohioan family now with an upcoming fashion icon.

When we landed, I hurried off the flight and ran directly into her son, Elijah Funk. “Hey, Online Ceramics!” He pointed at my sweatshirt. When his mom came off the plane, it was a love fest. Elijah, all tatted up, with giant holes in his ears, was filled with love for his mother. 

Whether your kids are playing video games, or choosing the arts over business (when I was a kid it was doctors and lawyers) — whatever it is, let them become who they are. 

Let’s recognize their creativity as their soul’s essence so they have the chance to reach the very success we are hoping for. 

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