How Meeting will.i.am Will Make Me a Better Dad

Will and I were close spiritually, not physically.

Will and I were close spiritually, not physically.

At a meeting last week, my company surprised a group of us with a speaker, will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas and other about five million other ventures. He talked about creativity. What he thinks it means. How to be it. How to inspire others around you.

will — we’re friends now, so I can call him that — gives good speech. He’s funny, articulate, whip smart and has a memory that is scary and troubling. At one point, he rattled off 20+ tour stops, in order, from an international tour in 2006. In order. He paused when he was done. “That was a big ass tour.” He is either Rain Man, a robot or some horrible fusion of the both.

As any good speaker does, he said things that were applicable to not just my job, but my life. Especially my life as a parent. Four stuck with me.

 

I was the kid always asking ‘why?’

My kids are like that. And, frankly, it can be exhausting.

Because the questions aren’t just the simple ones — why can’t I watch a show right now? — it’s the hard stuff. Stuff that I don’t know if I have a satisfactory answer for myself yet. Where do they go after they die? What is God like? Why are people mean sometimes?

Then there are the questions I don’t want to answer because it means they’re growing up far faster than I’m ready for. Like this week’s “why does my wee wee sometimes get big?”

Hearing will talk about how his kind of restless, childhood curiosity serves him as an adult as he puts his mind to one thing that interests him after the next was a reminder to embrace and nurture the boys’ asking about everything for as long as I can. Because the world conspires against this sort of behavior and does it’s best to beat it out of us. I don’t want to be part of the problem

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This could be a mission statement for parenthood: marinate your children in encouragement and belief. Jack likes to dance and sing. Reid likes to draw and pretend to read. Cal likes to eat and poop.

For whatever reason, so much artistic pursuit — or really, any pursuit — is tied up in how we feel about ourselves. Self-esteem, or lack of it, holds us back. If they want to express themselves, then I should be the force encouraging them to do it in any way they want to. Not to please me. But to please themselves.

We need to create new professions. Thinkers and dreamers. Because thinkers make sense of noise.

Given our state of governmental affairs, constant cultural bickering and a comment culture fueled by hate and snark, I think it’s a moral obligation to raise thoughtful dreamers with the strength to drown out the din. They’ll make the world a better place, if it’s not a smoldering ball of charcoal.

"Busy? Right." Photo: Ril Schroer/The Telegraph

“Busy? Right.”
Photo: Ril Schroer/The Telegraph

This last wasn’t something he said as much as demonstrated. But I’m never too busy.

When will rattled off what his week sounded like, I felt like a failure as a father. How could I ever say that I was too busy or too tired for my kids?

If I were to guess, will gains energy by what he is doing. So all-nighters and long flights and constant meetings aren’t something to be endured. They’re life. A life he built and created for himself. He spoke with a genuineness and earnestness and gentle humor that can’t be faked.

It’s easy, in the obligations we create for ourselves, to wall ourselves off. To think that we need a break or some down time. But maybe I’m looking at it wrong. That if I embrace, truly embrace the things I want to do, then all that energy begets more energy and we can all become perpetual motion machines. Just like he is. And just like my boys are.

Wouldn’t it be nice, to give the kids an example of how to keep the best parts of their childhoods alive the rest of their life? And for me to do the same?

  1 comment for “How Meeting will.i.am Will Make Me a Better Dad

  1. Jake
    October 25, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Alan, thanks for the always insightful and entertaining thoughts on life, parenting, existence. I really enjoy your work.

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