Good, Because Children Like Butterflies

One evening last week, I got a chance to meet up with a couple of friends of mine who I used to work with back at URS Corp. (mega-engineering company roughly 1,000 times the size of where I work now). One is a soon-to-be Dad, like me, only a couple of months ahead. The other is the father of two boys, ages 7-1/2 and 4.

We’re all structural engineers and we did discuss the nerdy, engineering stuff for a little while. We also discussed running (all of us run) and some other non-work interests. However, most of the evening’s conversation revolved around dealing with pregnancy and raising children. It was great getting to talk about stuff like that with some good friends my age; one who’s been through it (twice) as well as someone who’s essentially going the exact same things as I am (really that Angela and I are, just through the eyes of the daddy side of life). It’s not so much an advice giving session as just a reassurance that I’m not crazy and that no one else really has a clue with how to deal with this stuff. I think I’ve enjoyed getting to talk about this with a lot of friends and co-workers and this conversation was particularly fun.

After dinner and a couple of beers, we called it an evening and decided we’d better get on home. As father-of-two and I were walking down the sidewalk talking, he happened to mention one thing that has also been on my mind a lot. He commented on how funny it was to talk with his mom and the differences on how he recalled his childhood and how his mom did.

Although it’s not exactly what he was getting at, I think this is something that both terrifies and fascinates me. I can recall a few instances of something that one or the other of my parents said to me which, although they probably didn’t mean to have so much weight behind it, stuck with me and really affected how I thought and acted. No, not some sort of deep mental scarring, just something that would guide how I saw the world from then on.

I was born in the late summer and, as in many places, that meant I could have started school a year later since my birthday was right around the time the school year began. It was around the time that I was closing in on my fifth birthday that my mom asked me if I would like to go to school. Now, I’m sure she even phrased it as “would you like to go to Kindergarten this year or wait until next year?” However, I interpreted as simply “would you like to attend school or not?” My young mind reeled at the possibility of getting to stay home and play forever. However, knowing that I wanted to grow up to be a scientist1, I determined that the best course was for me to attend school and learn as much as possible. I decided that yes, I would have to go to school.

Now, rest assured, my parents were going to send me to school regardless. They just might have waited a year to put me in if I’d thrown a fit or something. However, had that happened, I would have had an entirely different set of classmates and friends; possibly even different teachers. I think that such changes could have been pretty relevant into how I developed. That’s not really good nor bad, save for the fact that I’m pretty fond of myself as I am now. Just an interesting thought on how one little passing question could have had such a dramatic affect on me.

Sort of a "butterfly effect" of child development.

  1. You see, I was convinced that if I became a chemist or biologist, I could eventually discover how to turn ordinary people (e.g. – me) into superheroes. I particularly figured I needed to devise a red fluid which, upon drinking, would turn me into The Flash. I hadn’t yet decided if I would need to change my name to Barry Allen. []

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