Such a sweetheart.
During the exchange, I wondered if part of this third phase of fatherhood/parenthood is that they entertain me more. “Tables turned,” she confirmed.
I define this final stage of their time under my roof as when they start to leave the nest. My oldest is in the middle of applying to, and fielding acceptances from various colleges and universities. Since her youngest sister is in the fifth grade, this phase will last seven more years.
The most important phase of parenthood however, is at the other end of the spectrum; the first one. This lasts roughly through the elementary school years, and is the one that requires the most diligence.
Obviously it starts with steering children clear of danger. Establishing certain standards and guidelines comes next.
Showing them right from wrong. Introducing them to a proper diet. Eschewing television for reading. Not being afraid to tell them “no” (learning to appreciate the comedic gold provided by subsequent temper tantrums makes this one an underrated joy).
Bridging phase one and two sees the introduction of hobbies, special interests, extracurricular activities, etc. All this can be put at risk in the event of a divorce, which happened to me.
I love my daughters dearly. They’re the most important part of my life. They’re also my best opportunity to improve society, my positive spillover if you will. I wasn’t going to let my divorce from their mother (the best one they could have) ruin that.
We learn about externalities/spillovers in my microeconomics classes. When a coal-fired power plant emits pollution, residents outside its service area bear some cost. Hence, a negative externality has occurred.
When a person avoids becoming infected by the coronavirus because people around her are successfully vaccinated, she’s the beneficiary of a positive spillover.
We see citizens fret all the time about the downfall of our society, whether it’s due to environmental concerns, abortion, racial strife, economic concerns, etc. We see them on T.V. at protests. They bark at each other, both directly and in the abstract, on social media.
I engage in some of it myself, but I try not to get too swept up. There’s only so much I can do. I teach. I try to make an informed, principled vote. The biggest effect I can have however, is talking to my daughters about whatever is going on.
The divorce is probably what spurred my obsession to make sure they were entertained. Now, at the dawn of phase three, they seem to be returning the favor.
This comes as no surprise though. Early on in phase one, I remember thinking that I didn’t need Comedy Central anymore. And that was before the goofiest, most spastic of the four was born!
Regardless, she’s as much proof as her sisters that our focus in phase one paid off. They are as respectful, disciplined, intelligent (all well within the top 10% of their respective classes) and problem-free as I could have hoped for. It’s made the transition from phase two to three a relative breeze.
Thanks to my oldest’s college application essays, a lesson from my macro class also came to mind. It’s a relatively mythical one that arguably exists only in Keynesian economists’ models: the multiplier effect. This has compounded the spillover effect.
The way she described her sisters, and what she’s learned from each of them, was nothing short of heartwarming. It’s rivaled only by her career goal, as a psychologist, of “destigmatizing and relieving mental and emotional disorders,” primarily amongst young people.
Given such a noble cause, I can’t help but want her to succeed, wildly. There is a small part of me however, that would count it as a mark of increased parenting success, if she eventually had to move up the age demographic of her clientele in order to stay busy.
More than a mere spillover, that would be a positively torrential deluge.