Dear reader, before you read this you must know I'm a nerd at heart...you've been warned...
I’m reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and I came upon this diagram and it stopped me in my tracks because it’s a perfect description of raising a daughter. The skills required and challenges faced over time provide a near perfect mathematical relationship that gets ever more rewarding.
Basically I start at the lower left hand of the graph in flow (A1). She’s a baby and I get the basic skills of changing diapers, burping and feeding up until maybe 2 years old. It was mostly solution oriented (along with a lot of goofy playing). And as my skills in that area improve if that’s all that’s required I start to get bored (A2). The cure for that boredom is bigger challenges.
And age has a magnificent way of offering bigger and bigger challenges. We don’t even have a choice, the challenges just happen. And to meet those challenges my skills need to improve. As she started to walk and talk my type and level of engagement with her had to change.
It started to be about not just responding to the cries but inspiring her curiosity, helping her find her voice or introducing her to new activities or social situations up until about 8 years old. It was still pretty much solution oriented (along with even more goofy playing). That actually worked quite well as I worked to improve my skills and the challenges increased, I found flow again (A4).
Then the challenges spiked faster than I could handle it with the normal development of skills. Right around 9 or 10 the challenge became far deeper. My daughter now needed a Dad who knew or would learn how to let her express her feelings.
O felt anxiety because her needs (seemingly overnight) changed in a way that I was not equipped to handle (A3). I have spent the better part of the last 3-4 years trying to catch up. The solution oriented approach that worked so well works far less now. And honestly it seems like every year from 10 to 13 so far the challenges have been exponential not incremental.
To find flow I need to improve my skills. I readily admit that I have not sought out a good cohort of Dads who think the way I think on a lot of issues. Core issues in this time are traditionally "mom's" territory but I wholeheartedly reject that notion on almost every level. I have way too much evidence that women would have loved it if their Dads had been there on these developing subjects.
I also readily admit that there are times when I do find flow (A4) again. And as the challenges have become far greater it’s undeniable that finding flow with my 13 year old daughter is FAR more rewarding and rich due mostly to its comparative complexity (emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc.) to finding flow with a well changed diaper (although I got damn good at it….).
I won't be surprised if at some point the spike in challenges levels out a bit but for now I'm on the most amazing and rewarding ride of my life. The changes now seem so wholesale and speedy.
Yes, I realize it’s a relatively nerdy way to look at all this, but I also somewhat readily admit that in spite of the flair and flash that you all love so much about me a noticeable portion of my essence is represented by the nerd that played D&D, figured out mathematical relationships between basketball players' jerseys during ND games and thinks that, in the end, life is just one big mathematical equation.
Damn I’m awesome!!