Fatherhood & Stoicism: A Guide to Nurturing Independent Children
Our Children Are Their Own People
As fathers, we strive to provide our children with the best guidance, support, and love as they adventure their way through life. We all dream of watching them grow into successful, responsible, and happy individuals, reaching heights beyond those we attained ourselves.
However, the fatherhood journey is layered with challenges, especially when it comes to accepting that our children will make their own decisions in life, which may go against our preference or the choice we’d have made in their shoes.
Today, we will explore how the principles of Stoicism can help fathers embrace the inevitability of their children's independence. Through four stories I’ve come across while researching the subject.
Story #1: The Butterfly's Flight
In the enchanting world of a garden, a father stood watching his young daughter stare at a butterfly.
Mesmerized by its graceful flight, she reached out to catch it. Wise and experienced, the father knew that trying to capture the butterfly would only prevent it from fulfilling its innate purpose. He gently explained that beauty should be admired from afar, appreciating the lessons nature teaches.
In this metaphor, fathers must understand that, like the butterfly, children possess innate desires and dreams. Embracing the Stoic values of acceptance and natural order allows us to honor their individuality.
Story #2: The Art of Letting Go
A wise old fisherman once took his son out to sea for the first time.
Brimming with excitement, the son cast his line into the water and caught his first fish. Overwhelmed by joy and accomplishment, he clung tightly to the fish, which was too small to keep, despite his son’s desperation to hold onto his triumph. The father, recognizing the need for a valuable lesson, asked his son to release the fish back into the water. Stoicism teaches us the art of letting go.
Just as the fisherman allowed his son to experience the cycle of life, fathers must learn to release their children, realizing that true growth and self-discovery can only occur when they are given the freedom to make their own choices and learn from their own experiences.
FATHERHOOD IS AN ART
Every week for the past three years, my friend, “fatherhood mentor”, and business partner Anthony Migliorino has run a video call dedicated to fatherhood within the Fraternity of Excellence. We value the relationships in the family as much as the money made, weights lifted, and women a man can pull - to us, if anything, a man’s relationship with his children transcends all of that.
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Story #3: The Oak and the Sapling
A mighty oak tree stood tall in the shady forest, its branches offering shelter to all who sought refuge beneath them.
Beside it, a small sapling swayed delicately in the wind, struggling to find stability. Curious, a young boy asked the oak, "Why does the tree beside you seem weaker?" The wise oak smiled and replied, "The sapling may appear weak now, but with time and resilience, it will grow into its own strength." Similarly, fathers must nurture their children, granting them the space and patience to develop their own character and values.
Stoicism teaches fathers the virtue of virtues, guiding us to support our children's lives while understanding that they will forge their own path.
Story #4: The Metamorphosis of Dreams
In the realm of dreams, a father and his daughter shared a conversation under a starlit sky.
She expressed her ambitions, her dreams soaring high like the constellations above. With a gentle smile, the father encouraged her, aware that dreams evolve with time. Stoicism reminds us that our children's dreams are not ours to control but to support.
As fathers, we must become steadfast allies, offering unwavering support and guidance. Even as our children's goals shift, we can inspire them to adapt their dreams gracefully while reminding them that fulfillment lies not in the achievement alone but in the journey.
The Pain is Beautiful
By embracing the principles of Stoicism, fathers can navigate the delicate balance between guidance and independence. I enjoyed these stories and wanted to share; if you google “Fatherhood lessons told through stories” you’ll find a starting point (and a ton of great stories), but these were good for today’s piece.
I’m going through the same phases all fathers before and after have traversed, with the exception that while many were aloof to what was happening and some unaware of the impact they were having on their children, I am hyper-focused on the passage of time, and privileged to have found my way to understanding and developing my personal “Art of Fatherhood”.
I know my children aren’t me, and their independence from me increases year after year; it is a beautiful thing to watch, even as I know it means it is one less year of having them “needing me”.
Why am I calling that pain beautiful?
Because my children are going from needing me in their life to wanting me in their lives, and with that comes a different relationship I get to have with them as they chase their own goals and ambitions in life. My kids were not my attempt at “doing life over again”; they are their own person, and I am the one blessed to guide them on that journey.
Remember, fathers are not architects but gardeners, sowing seeds of guidance and cultivating an environment where our children can flourish. May the wisdom of Stoicism guide fathers everywhere as they embark on this incredible adventure of raising independent and fulfilled children.
- Zachary Small