Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Paradoxical observations on being my son's hero

I realized this weekend that I have the market cornered of being one of my son’s heroes. Like, unless I do something horrendous and hurtful to him or others, I’ll be someone he really admires and looks up to. In a way, I have a natural monopoly on being a hero to my son.

The conclusion I’ve come to after realizing this is counterintuitive.

My first thought was, “I’d better set a good example”. After all, if I’m his hero he’s going to be watching me.

But my second thought was more skeptical. f I try to set a good example, that’s a contrived way of living unless whatever setting a good example entails is just part of who I am. If I try really hard to set a good example for the sake of setting a good example, I’d be modeling a behavior of basing my thoughts and actions on how I want others to see me.

What I really should be doing is modeling the behavior of “it’s okay to be yourself, and think and act for yourself.” Because all wisdom I’ve ever received points to being yourself as absolutely fundamental to a happy, purposeful, prosperous life. And if being myself is isn’t setting a “good example”, what I should probably be focused on is modeling the behavior of “it’s important to improve myself to become a better, more virtuous person”.

Being a hero to your kids (or to anyone, perhaps) is counterintuitive. It seems the way to be a hero is to be yourself and improve yourself, even when it is hard. And paradoxically, the first step to being yourself and improve yourself is to stop trying to be a hero.

And something even more cosmically humorous, trying to stop “being a hero” is one of the hardest things I’ve ever struggled with.