12/1/2012 | 3 MINUTE READ

Passing the Baton

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Parenting involves raising our children. When we help our co-workers, we call it mentoring. In many ways, these two kinds of teaching are similar.


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I don’t know the exact percentage of married people with children, but my guess is the number is pretty high. For 33 years and through four children, I’ve been counted in that statistic.


It’s kind of a cool club when you think about it because there are so many shared experiences that the members can relate to each other. We all share our kids’ first tooth, first word, first step, first school day, first soccer goal and numerous other sports, academic, and artistic firsts. Experiencing these and the many of life’s other mile posts never get old.


I recently crossed another threshold with the marriage of my oldest son. He is the first of my children to take the plunge, and his bride is a lovely girl who has assimilated well into our growing family.


While I subconsciously expected this day might come as we raised our young man, it always seemed to be something that was in the future. It amazes me how quickly the future can become the present and then the past.


The wedding, like so many, was a gathering of friends and family all brought together with a connection to my son’s life. It’s a special event and celebration as this wonderful, newly minted couple signs on to become members of the married people’s club.


As I pondered the event in real time, watching the gathered guests mingle together and participate in making it a special day for the bride and groom, I allowed myself to reflect on the road taken to get us and my son to this point in his life and ours. I say this because the family and friends who attended and those who were not able to, comprise in the sum of my son’s life many ways.


“It Takes a Village” is the title of Hillary Clinton’s book from a few years ago, and I find that title very descriptive of child rearing, at least my experience with it. Looking out over the room of revelers gathered to wish Godspeed to my son and new daughter, I see each individual as having an impact both large and small on the molding of these two kids.


In attendance were first and foremost us parents who bring many of our collective influencers to the party and pass those on to these children. But also included were many influencers unique to these kids such as teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and many friends, each of whom played a role in the upbringing of the guests of honor.


As the father of the groom, I say with pride that the end result of this village’s work is two solid, smart and contributing citizens who will take the lessons learned from the many people they have known in their youth and apply them in a positive way to their lives together and then, hopefully, pass that template on to the next generation.


It also occurs to me that each of us can be influential beyond our family. It extends into our other numerous spheres of activities, especially our working lives. To me, experience lies at the heart of what each of us can bring to a given activity, whether it is raising or teaching a child or helping a co-worker learn what he or she needs to know for success in their career.


We call it parenting when it involves our children and mentoring when it involves our co-workers, but I think in many ways they are the same thing. A parent helps the child find his or her way through the beginning of life with the goal of some day letting that child apply the lessons learned.


A mentor is in the position to receive the baton that has been passed from parents and help take the resulting adult into the next level of life. If the parents did well, the adult will be accepting to the need to learn, and if the mentor does well, the adult will gain the experience necessary to one day help another younger person. It is said we reap what we sow and that, to me, means that it is vital to closely tend the fields.