I am used to being the center of attention, with all the work I’ve done over the years building an organization that takes partially used bars of soap from hotels and recycles them into new bars. With the Global Soap Project, I have earned a reputation of doing good around the world, and for that I am proud as well as humbled. But I am also used to being the center of the universe. For example, every single day I get an email or a Facebook “like” or a kind, encouraging statement from friends around the world that really appreciate the work we have done at Global Soap Project. But someone has been filling in daddy’s shoes slowly but steadily, and it has caught my attention.
My son Kevin just turned 13 in February. At this young age he has a trajectory of success that is starting to not only impress me, but also make me envious of his accomplishments. At his age I was nowhere in comparison.
You see, at 13 Kevin is a prolific piano player, partly because he wakes up every morning at 7 a.m. — without fail — to play for 30 minutes.
Kevin decided to take his SATs at just 12 years old and actually scored a 1200. Duke University’s TIPS program, where Kevin has enrolled for their summer honors program, tells me this isn’t bad for a 12-year-old. (I say that because I attended the British system of education, so I really don’t understand how it works in the U.S. when it comes to SATs.)
And to add insult to injury, Kevin stands at 6’1″ with a size-15 shoe and is a brilliant basketball player. He didn’t show any promise at first, hardly getting any game time during his first year on his basketball team. But over time, in true Kevin fashion, he got into the game: he studied it every single day on his iPad and through magazines and played it relentlessly on video games. He’s learned not only the art form of playing basketball but knows the strengths and weakness of every key player that has graduated to the NBA from college. He also goes to the gym five days a week to train. Today I am proud to say Kevin is a starter on his team and has won a few championships locally. His coach tells me that if he stays the course, he is bound for not just college basketball but also potentially the NBA — a noble goal that eludes many wonderfully gifted kids.
I once thought I was a great athlete. I played soccer for my college team and table tennis and was relatively good. But no coach said or even thought I was professional material!
With all of this, Kevin is also just a good kid. He is very kind-hearted — something I never was at that age. He particularly loves his baby sister and actually takes the time to play with her. Most boys don’t tend to have that sort of affinity for their sisters; in fact, some tend to tease them a bit.
For Kevin, discipline is a virtue, and his self-motivation and tasks are taken seriously and executed with precision. I don’t know where he got this sense of focus (well, I should be careful saying that because my wife always reminds me where that focus comes from … hint hint!), but it makes me wonder about myself. Could I be even more successful if I had the focus Kevin has?
Recently I’ve been trying to answer that question. I’ve been trying to emulate my son. I enrolled back into school, a tough school at that. But I am pleasantly sad to say that I am not in any way as composed, or focused, or motivated as my son. What a sad day in my life to realize this for me, but what a wonderful day to know that I have provided a milieu that affords Kevin the elusive opportunity to perfect his life and create what I pray and hope will be a fantastic life — a gem to give the world, in my view.
I can only end this by saying I am “envious” of you Kevin — and proud to be. To my fellow parents who struggle with this in another form (maybe you have a grown-up child who is doing what you did but better, or is making more money than you): Don’t fret. At the end of the day, as parents we are our children’s nexus to the talents and skills they possess genetically. So take heart: their success is your success.
The only question remaining is, did my wife and I do anything special to raise a child of this caliber? That is yet to be answered … the struggle continues.
A humbled father