Dear Children- Don’t Ask For Approval

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Dear children,

It is time for another letter from your old man who in spite of what you think really isn’t all that old. You know what I like about being 42? I have been around long enough to have accumulated a ton of life experience. I have lived, loved and lost. I have gambled, gained and grown. I have been on both sides of success and failure.

I have been on all sides of that old cycle of life thing. You watched me help bury your great grandparents. You saw me take the shovel so that someone who loved them made sure that they were buried with honor and respect. I did it for them. I did it for your grandparents. I did it for you and I did it for me.

Forty-two means that I have been out of school for more than a little while. It means that I know what it means to get up and go to work day in and day out without a summer vacation or winter break. I know what it means to be the sole source of income for the family. I know what it means to love a job and I know what it means to hate it.

That hate part is what some of the fellas would call “a real motherfucker.” They’d say it with a certain inflection and expect that by using that expression it would carry a little more oomph than if they didn’t curse. I am ambivalent about it. I can tell you that some people will respond to it positively and others will be negative.

My advice is that you don’t ask for approval. Just do it.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Mark Twain

I don’t know when you’ll start reading these posts but I do know that you’ll see lots of quotes from Mark Twain. He is one of my favorite authors and someone I refer to frequently. There is a lot of wisdom in what he says and that brings me back to the real point.

The Beauty of Life Experience

The beauty of life experience is that it helps you figure out what you really want to do with your life. If you are very lucky you’ll figure it out at a young age and take steps to make your dream into a reality. But if you are like most people it won’t happen that way and you’ll have to live a bit before you figure it out and even then you might change your mind.

You are old enough now to recognize that I am not satisfied with the way things are but young enough that I won’t share details. You don’t need to know them. They won’t help you and it will probably just confuse you. So I have given you plausible answers that serve the purpose of providing an explanation and more importantly make you feel secure.

But years from now we’ll talk about this. Years from now you’ll probably go through your own search and perhaps my quest will help you. Right now I am working on a variety of projects but what I really want to do is focus on writing. I am good at this. The words come easily and more importantly this brings me joy and you can never have enough of that.

I don’t tell many people about my dreams. I don’t do it because I don’t want to hear their excuses and reasons why mine can’t come true. I have given up more than a few and suffered heartbreak because it seemed like the right thing to do. But I have figured out that all I did was hurt myself. I wasn’t true to me and that is among the worst things a person can do.

Be true to yourself. Don’t let fear stop you. Fight for your dreams and even if you fail rest comfortably knowing that you tried.

What Matters Most

Everyone you encounter in life will be able to tell you what matters most….to them. It is a subjective thing and something that you are going to have to figure out. And because life is nothing but fun it is something that will change over time. What was once important to me now seems trivial and what was trivial is of paramount importance. I can’t tell you why only that it happens.

What I know is that years from now some of the angst you see me write about will seem less important in large part because of “this too shall pass” syndrome. You won’t feel the pressure of time. You won’t know the immediacy that I knew but you’ll have the joy of experiencing it for yourself. My hope and my dream is that some of this will make it easier but I am not real optimistic. It is not because I don’t want it but because your great grandfather was right, “you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.”

That life experience I talked about earlier- there is no substitute for it. So chances are that you’ll be like most people and find yourself laughing about some things that fell into your lap and crying about that which you missed. And that is ok.

Time for the old man to catch few zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I look forward to watching you grow.



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  1. NokomisMichelle September 18, 2011 at 4:09 am

    Some fathers don’t give a damn about their kids. You’re online writing about them everyday. You find them as your inspiration to get back to writing- something you love. No, not all fathers are like this. SOooo, … just say THANK YOU damn it! And acknowledge yourself as something special 🙂

  2. TheJackB September 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    @NokomisMichelle Hi Michelle. Welcome to the blog. Ego is a double edged sword. Mine has helped and hurt me on more than one occasion and probably will again. I am just like any other father who tries to help his kids.

  3. NokomisMichelle September 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I loved this. They r very lucky u r their father. And I feel lucky U shared it with me. Ur right. Not being true to urself is one of the worst things u can do. All too often we mistake our egos for our real selves, follow its demands and end up miserable. Its a strong soul that can listen to the whisper of their soul through the blare of their ego. U keep teaching your children lessons like these, they’ll be sure to be among those few.

  4. TheJackB September 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

    @Hajra I think that kids always want to feel like their parents approve of their actions, whatever they may be. It is not something that disappears over night either. The goal for me is to raise good kids who are productive members of society who are independent and able to stand on their own.

  5. Hajra September 17, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Yes, your kids are lucky to have you as such an understanding father! Approval is such a tough term to deal with and I have seen many people gain that “approval” for feeling better. Sad thing actually, some parents are reinforcing the whole concept of approval without realizing the harm associated.

  6. TheJackB September 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    @SarahYFB Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. Hope you come visit again.

  7. SarahYFB September 15, 2011 at 5:19 am

    Sounds like your kids have a fantastic father. I found your blog through Heather’s Just Write prompt, and I’m so glad I did.

  8. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    @SocialMediaDDS Thanks. It is one of my favorites.

  9. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    @FishSticked Keep pushing for the life you want is solid advice and something worth fighting for. The thing is that a lot of people say it but very few go after it. Sometimes we just need to say What the Fuck and do it.

  10. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    @bdorman264 Nothing mysterious about me. I am a regular Joe like most people. Just doing the best I can.

    Thanks for the compliment on writing, I do enjoy it.

  11. FishSticked September 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    This was a great read overall, but this really caught me:

    “I don’t tell many people about my dreams. I don’t do it because I don’t want to hear their excuses and reasons why mine can’t come true. I have given up more than a few and suffered heartbreak because it seemed like the right thing to do. But I have figured out that all I did was hurt myself. I wasn’t true to me and that is among the worst things a person can do.”

    I’m not 42, so I can’t say that I’m looking at this from your perspective, but I get it. I’ve thrown dreams out, given up on them, and allowed them to be talked away and I can’t do that anymore. The way it hurts isn’t something I need more of. Though there is certainly nothing wrong with Twain, one quote that has always grabbed me comes from Ryan over at Pacing the Panic Room: “Keep pushing for the life you want.” Simple, yes, but theres’s something about it, something about the pushing that makes sense to me.

    Whether you tell your children about these letters or you simply let them stumble upon them, they will hold more value than you know and probably more value than your children will know at the time as well. They’re lucky.

    Keep pushing. Just keep pushing.

  12. bdorman264 September 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Good post dad; I do hope your kids will learn more about their father through your writings as they grow older.

    It’s obvious you enjoy writing and you do a great job at it. As a writer, I want to be like you when I grow up.

    @TheJackB the mysterious man…………….

  13. SocialMediaDDS September 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    That’s a wonderful story about your young son @TheJackB The innocence!

  14. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    @Kristen @ Motherese Hi Kristen. I have wondered about that too. Sometimes I think that I’ll point it out but most of the time I expect that I’ll just let them find them on their own. But since I don’t plan on unveiling this for at least ten years it is probably better to say that I haven’t a clue how it will go.

    Context concerns me sometimes. I read some of my posts and wonder if they’ll have a clue what I mean or if it will all go over their head. It is hard sometimes to really imagine them as big people.

    I remember when my son first learned to read. One day we were out at the mall and he had to use the restroom. While we were in there he read the following: “For a good time call Julie” and then asked me if we could call.

    I explained to him that someone was playing a joke on Julie but he pushed me to call her because he was certain she played the kind of games we would like. I still laugh thinking about that one.

  15. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    @AdrienneSmith There is no substitute for life experience. You don’t have to visit the sun to know that it is hot, but at the same time….

    Your father sounds like quite a character. I can appreciate why he might have been hesitant to record some of them. There are boundaries in blogging that I follow too.

    Thank you for visiting here again, I appreciate it.

  16. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    @Craig McBreen I have to admit that my dad had some good points. He retired at 58- that is pretty respectable.

    It is hard not to “work” on the kids. I certainly do some of that myself.

  17. Craig McBreen September 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @TheJackB That’s an interesting story. My father really wanted me to work for IBM, but I just wasn’t into it. He was certainly a company man there. I’m working’ on my kids every day, trying to instill a certain confidence. I am just starting to drive the older one crazy with questioning, but do know when to back off 🙂

  18. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

    @Craig McBreen Hi Craig. That is one of my favorite Twain quotes and one that reminds me that people have always been people no matter what era.

    Blogging has been a real blessing for me for lots of reasons, new friends, business and clarity. This medium makes it easy to figure out what you think, feel and believe.

    There is no one that I hold in higher regard than my father, but he made one big mistake with me. When I got into the working world he pushed me not to go into sales because he hated the idea of being a salesman. Even though I knew he meant well it drove me crazy.

    I didn’t intend to go into sales but when I fell into it I found out that I was good at it. But it drove me nuts to have him ride me about it.

    Eventually that ended but I remember it and I don’t want to do that with my kids. I will tell them if I think that they are being taken advantage of- but I want them to be strong enough to do what they will even when I say otherwise.

    And that is another area where I give my dad credit. Even though he made me crazy with the questioning- he taught me to stand tough when I believed in something.

  19. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 11:26 am

    @PerpetuallyKate Hi Kate. I think a lot of us were taught that. One of the challenges of school is trying to teach many kids at the same time. There are things that we all need to learn, but the process sometimes stifles creativity. Not to mention it pushes us not to be different. Different doesn’t have to be wrong or bad.

  20. Kristen September 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I always enjoy reading your letters to your children. I wonder, if and when they start reading your blog, whether you’ll point these out to them or wait for them to stumble upon them.

    None of my kids can read yet so I know that the question of reading my words is way off, but I wonder whether and how the knowledge that my kids are reading might change the way I write. (Kind of like the way my husband and I curb some of us more, um, expressive language when they kids are around.)

  21. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:26 am

    @Joanne Cipressi Thanks Joanne. It is good to see you here.

  22. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:10 am

    @BruceSallan Thanks Bruce. Just trying to to be a good dad.

  23. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

    @SocialMediaDDS Hi Claudia. I have very few regrets but the few that I have are enormous. I am no different than any other parent and want to try to help my kids avoid making some of the same mistakes that I made.

    The trick is trying to do it in a way that “invites” participation as opposed to pushes them in a different direction. They are smart kids. I expect that when the time comes they’ll make it work.

  24. AdrienneSmith September 13, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I agree with Craig, you can’t go wrong quoting Mark Twain. I do love motivational quotes and he is one of the best.

    I love what your grandfather said, “you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.” Is he ever right Jack! I know even though advice has been given to us throughout the years, we had to learn for ourselves. I think that’s just part of life.

    I wish my Dad would have had a blog too! He did use to tell us stories but wouldn’t allow us to record them. Because he grew up in an era where things were a certain way and if people heard what they did back then they would call it something totally different. He didn’t want pranks and jokes to be misconstrued for something else. But I will admit, he kept us in stitches.

    I love this letter and I do hope your kids take the time to read your work as they get to that age. I have a feeling they are going to be even more proud of you then they already are! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Jack.

  25. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 9:30 am

    @Leon Always good to see you here Leon. My kids know that I am published but they haven’t ever asked to see any of my work and that is ok with me. I expect that at some point in time they will.

    As for the blog, well I don’t really expect them to have any interest in this for quite some time. Wouldn’t surprise me if they waited until they were in their late twenties and or married. But who knows.

    Mr. Clemens is the best.

  26. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 9:27 am

    @BetsyKCross Hi Betsy. That was one of my grandpa’s favorite sayings. He had a million of them and I only wish that I had written more of them down.

    I am a big fan of your reason for blogging. I think that there is something beautiful in trying to pass these things down to the kids. They’ll make their own way through life but they’ll have more than a few moments where they wonder what we might have done so this could be useful for them.

    You are always welcome to comment on my stories. I call them Fragments of Fiction for a reason. They are always a mix of truth and fiction but which is what is something that I rarely share.

  27. TheJackB September 13, 2011 at 9:15 am

    @blisshabits Hi Kathy, welcome to the ship I call the Mighty JackB. Some time ago my father had a major heart attack and ended up on a ventilator. He was unconscious for quite some time and came very close to dying. That made me realize that I had a million questions for him and I decided that I didn’t want my own kids to get stuck that way.

    So I started chronicling their life and mine here with the thought that maybe it might be of interest to them later on.

  28. Craig McBreen September 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Well Jack, if you’re going to quote someone, I would say Mark Twain is about the best, and I absolutely love the quote above!

    There can be no better advice than, “Be true to yourself.” You might not know what your life goals, dreams are, but it you stay true to yourself you’ll have a much easier time finding them, that’s for damned sure. I’ve had a lot of regrets, missed opportunities, etc., but am putting that all behind me, finally. If nothing else, this blogging realm helps with that, by just getting it all out there with the written word. As Bruce mentioned, you are indeed giving your kids a wonderful legacy here.

    This reminds me of my talks with my oldest son. He is so much like me in many ways, it’s silly. I see myself in his young eyes. I just want him to be happy. To not make the mistakes I’ve made. And most of all, as you’ve said to be true to himself.

    Jack, I love coming here, and thank you for visiting my site. Now for me to follow your words too. Later, Jack!

  29. PerpetuallyKate September 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I was taught to always ask for approval. At 30, I’m finally retraining myself. Thanks for the reminder.

  30. Joanne Cipressi September 13, 2011 at 7:49 am


    Awesome words to share with your kids! I will now have to go and read your others letters. 🙂

  31. BruceSallan September 13, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Doing these posts is giving your kids a wonderful legacy!

  32. SocialMediaDDS September 13, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Hi thejackb

    “I wasn’t true to me and that is among the worst things a person can do.’ This resonates in me and is a powerful message. A message that I hope, in my passionate attempt to be a good parent, I made clear. My children are adults now. And they have pursued their dreams with strength and courage. Society sometimes makes it hard for us to always be true to ourselves but, with perseverance , it can be done. Your letter to your children is loving and honest without being brutally honest to satisfy a point. You know how to get your message across without drama. Beautiful. With this kind of wisdom in love, they will create wonderful rich lives for themselves.


  33. Leon September 13, 2011 at 4:46 am

    G’Day Jack,

    This reminds me of a story told by P.J.O’Rourke. He was explaining to a friend, also a writer, that he was concerned that as they grew up, his children might read the articles he wrote and feel embarrassed by some of the opinions he espoused.

    The friend was dismissive. “Don’t worry” he said. “The last people likely to read what you write are your children.” My kids like the idea that people publish what I write. They are nowhere as keen to actually read it. I like it that way.

    It really is fun……like quoting Mark Twain!



  34. BetsyKCross September 13, 2011 at 3:36 am

    “you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.” That’s so funny! But true, too. I catch myself now before I give advice to my children because really, they’re just trying to talk to me. They want me to listen. They will make their own way, and sometimes they’ll have a memory and think,”That’s how Mommy would have done it.” I started blogging so that my children would know me better. Only one of our nine read my WordPress blog. He and I have a deeper connection because he sees me differently.

    This is a beautiful post. Thanks Jack.

    I didn’t comment on yesterday’s post (your stories) because I was laughing, not knowing what was true and what was fiction! But those were very entertaining and I thought you should hear that, too!


  35. blisshabits September 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I totally wish my Dad had had a blog! On his death bed he told me that he wished I had come more often for his advice. I didn’t because I was afraid of disappointing him. Knowing his “quest” and concerns would have been a wonderful.

    Thank you Jack. My evening was great fun here at your blog. I’ll be back! Kathy

  36. Eli4short September 12, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Very very nice.

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