A Purposeful Post: Part Two

They grow up so fast!
Sniff! They grow up so fast!

A couple weeks back, my blog pal, Harula, posted a writing exercise. The theme was “Purpose” and the idea was to complete the following four prompts with whatever spontaneous musings sprung to mind.

* When I was a child, I believed I was here to…

* As a teenager, I believed I was here to…

* As an adult, I believe I am here to…

* The most important thing life has taught me is…

The answers to the first two prompts can be found here. In this post, I get the last two:


As an adult, I believe I am here to…

…write. It’s trite for a writer to say this, but I do believe it. I hope that one of my books outlives me. I hope that it might be handed down to the next generation, the same way I gave my old children’s books to my son.

But my son is the big reason why I’m here – to raise him the best way I know how, which is almost certainly not as good as it should be.

Parenting doesn’t come naturally to me, for I’m too solitary and regimented. Now that I’m a dad, I am in a sort of war with myself to resist these natural inclinations.

Fortunately, Ellen is better at this sort of thing. Not a moment goes by when I am not grateful for her presence, for it is she who shoves me back on the right parenting path on the occasions I become too hermit-ish.

I have one child. When people ask me why Ellen and I don’t have more, I have a stock answer: “My boy got all of our best traits,” I say. “A second child would get all the the genetic diarrhea.”

I’ve been told that this is not how science works, but I still choose to believe it.

Another reason I have only one child is because one child works for me. I don’t like messing with what works.

“Once you have two kids, three is easy,” a dad leading a parade of screeching moppets once told me.

“But you have four,” I pointed out.

“And once you have three, four is even easier,” he replied, his smile wide and condescending. It was the smile that got me. The smile said, “You don’t have what it takes, Buddy Boy,” and it stung because I knew he was right.

But I was also thinking, “Well, at least I’ll be able to pay for college, Mr. Smug Guy.”

That’s another reason why I’m here. I believe that, if possible, kids should graduate college no worse than flat broke. It troubles me that college debt is The New Normal. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening to my son. It’s hard enough to build up from nothing without having to begin one’s adulthood deep in the red.

The most important thing life has taught me is…

…that failure is not a big deal. I’ve spent much of my adult life screaming this fact from the rooftops. I’ve seen way too many people more talented than I give up on their dreams way too soon because the idea of failing is just way too terrifying.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg! Jealous?

I believe that almost every success I had is based on the fact that I’ve simply refused to stop trying. I love to repeat my old chestnut, “I got 114 rejections before my first book contract,” because I’m proud of it. I think that my many rejections say more about me than my one book does. It says that I will never give up.

Granted, it also says that I’m a little tweaked. But, hey, for a writer, that’s just par for the course.

So! What’s the most important thing that’s life has taught you? Tell me in the comments!

76 Replies to “A Purposeful Post: Part Two”

  1. Life has taught me to listen to my gut. So often we let the brain take center stage in our decisions. The brain’s important, no doubt, but it usually takes the safe and practical route. We need to let our gut speak every now and then, too.

    “genetic diarrhea”—Ha!

    1. So very true. Also, our guts can intuit things that our brains cannot properly articulate. Guts, for example, can telegraph that something is wrong before our brains can figure out what that wrong thing is.

  2. Failure is not a big deal, but it does make you feel poopy for awhile. But wait, a rejection letter isn’t really FAILURE! It’s just a bump on the way to success. Failure would be not writing at all 🙂

  3. Actually two things: for every problem there is a solution and the joy of the Lord is my strength and that prayer is part of the solution (if not THE solution).
    Great mustache. My eldest son and I have similar mustache photos. What is with fake mustaches and getting the suave eyebrow look?

      1. HaHa…maybe in my memoirs under the “Sometimes a Silly Moment or Two” chapter. That reminds me:
        Why does a cow carry a spare serviette?
        *ba dum*
        To wipe off its milk moostache

      1. Pretty much. (but in other words). And, then when I’m playing with my dad’s fart app on his work phone (or something like that) they tell me to stop being a 12-year-old boy. (of course, they are joking) 😉

      2. Yup (it is called “Fart For Free”), and, when I play with it, he “yells” at me, saying that it is a “serious work phone” and that it “is not meant for fun and games” and then he bursts out laughing hysterically. 😉

  4. First off, let me add I have not met one person who said going from two children to three was easy. Most people say, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I had that third.” This is why I have two. Plus I have a boy Noodge and a girl Noodge. What else did I need?

    The older I get the more I realize I don’t know anything at all. And that’s fine by me.

    1. I must admit, that dad’s “once you have two kids, three is easy” statement felt disingenuous to me. I mean, come ON, you’re outnumbered! I think he was trying to impress me with his invincibility.

      1. I think you’re right, Mike, with the “invincibility” thing. Either that or he’s trying to make you look “small” so he can feel “big,” OR he realizes he should’ve stopped having children sooner ’cause it turns out he can’t properly handle the bunch and says it’s “easy” to appear invincible. The man’s a fool on any count, I think. Or perhaps a bully, or BOTH!

        As soon as I read about his attitude, I got pretty irritated. I have one son and have said—many times—that although I’d intended having more PRIOR to divorce, the way my life turned out, one was just enough, and having a boy instead of a girl was absolutely perfect for me—and him!

        And it seems I, too, have that whole “never say die” attitude. Can’t imagine life without it, even though I sometimes question if I’m living on false hope! Proud of you! Proud of all of us who stick with it no matter what 🙂

  5. One thing I’ve learned (or decided) is that, since I’m gonna fail at stuff at least 50% of the time anyway (probably more), I might as well spend my time doing things that make my heart sing. Then, well, how can it really be called a failure, no matter the results?

    Thanks for a great, thought-prodding post, Mike!

  6. It’s so true that with each one you get more relaxed. I had friends in NZ with big families I loved how they played together but yikes the cars, weddings and college fees.

  7. Bravo, Mike! We get that single child question quite a bit, and my standard response is “We only got lucky once.” For I, being the introvert that I am, would lose myself and my work completely if I had to keep track of any more play dates, camps, equipment, activities, food requests, etc. in addition to all of the other things that parenting demands, like keeping up with the laundry (“Mom! I’m out of underwear!” “I just did laundry three days ago.” “I don’t know how it happened, Mom, but all of my underwear is dirty.” “Hmmmmmm. I’m working. Wear your Under Armour without the cup.”).

    My latest rejection came from an agent who responded within two hours of my hitting the “send” button. This, after I spent hours perfecting that query letter and making sure the manuscript was error free. When I told my son that I appreciated the prompt feedback and that the agent had very nicely explained that my story wasn’t “commercial enough,” my son said that I didn’t want to write commercials, anyway, so it’s good the agent said “no.” Oh, how I love my son! And then I asked him if I should give up. His response: “No, you just need to find an agent who wants you to write something besides commercials.”

    Exactly. The race goes to those who keep running.:D

    Oh, and I think your son needs a Cubs shirt. Either that, or a shave. Maybe both. 😀

    1. My boy is similarly supportive. He is particularly fond of a picture book manuscript of mine that’s been languishing for a few years now. Whenever he asks me why the story isn’t a book yet, I explain that I can’t yet find a publisher who wants to buy it. This gets him indignant. “That’s ridiculous,” he growls. “That story is amazing!”

      And I can’t help but go “Aww!”

      As to your other point, all sports team shirts that my son wears were purchased by my sports-loving parents. I have no team preferences whatsoever.

      As for the ‘stache, I think it makes him look like an 1890s bare-knucked boxer. It’s a fine look, if you ask me. The razor with stay in the medicine chest.

      1. Yes, I love him dearly, and feel so lucky to have my own cheerleader who loves me no matter what anyone else says. I hope you have your own cheerleader, too. 😀

      2. I do, Jilanne! And he’s been cheering me on for nearly 29 years now 🙂 His confidence and faith in me and my work seems to be as deep set as mine is for him and his—and that’s saying something! 😀

  8. A couple of important things:
    1. Change is the only constant.
    2. Feeling and giving love is the only thing I have control over. I’ve no control over how (or if) it’s received and/or returned.
    3. When the words and the actions don’t match, trust the actions. Body language doesn’t lie.

    Like you, Mike, I have only one child, and I like it that way. Took me a long time to remember that I don’t have to mother the world…just the one child I agreed to bring into it! lol xoxoM

  9. You see, this is why I’m so grateful I became a blogger (along with a writer and a lover-of-lifer). You and your followers have SOULS that beam with the joy of asking for (and actually finding) the ‘answers.’ And I love their answers. I believe in following my gut (even when it twists and turns with fear) and I believe happiness is a great goal in life and I believe that raising our child/children out of and into love and giving them the chance to believe in their gut as they mature, is THE ANSWER. Or at least one or two of them.
    However, I also believe a Yankees shirt is not listening to your gut – go throw it in the trash when your adorable son (and his grandparents who probably gave it to him) isn’t looking.

    1. I completely agree with your sentiments about blogging, Pam. When I started this blog a couple of years back, I did it to promote my book. Little did I know that I would soon be in contact with such a wonderful, intelligent, funny, talented, articulate and supportive community of fellow bloggers. I have made so many new friends in the last few years. I am so much richer for the experience.

      1. FYI: I am so inspired by this post, I’ve used it as a start off (and quoted you and added a link to you) in my blog post today. Big THANKS. bit.ly/nobigdealtofail 

  10. I’ve learned several things. *I believe doctors can be very wrong, so never give up hope. *Family of choice can be healthier than family by birth. *Things happen for a reason and things somehow work out. *Second chances should be given, even if it is the fourth one. Last, and unfortunately, I *believe people can be very mean and violent, just because. Thankfully, the world is filled with many more good hearted individuals. There must be more for me to understand, since I am still here.

      1. I think your son looks a lot like Erik. Erik without the lip hair. 🙂 (somehow posted on wrong comment. But still see the resemblance enough to say it twice.)

  11. Aah sucks. I think you’re doing a fine job with your son, with a little help from the Mrs. 😀

    Life taught me to never give up. I learned to put my head down and plow forward. It also didn’t hurt to keep my nose clean and save my pennies. 😛

  12. “A second child would get all the the genetic diarrhea.” Amazing blog moment! LOL!

    I love your honesty about parenting. Often I get tired of adults not telling it like it is and acting like taking care of kids is easy when we all know that’s just plain silly.

    Life has also taught me that “failure is not a big deal”. Because, it isn’t. If you’re going for your dream in any shape or form, you’re succeeding.

    1. A friend of mine once told me I was the only person he knew who gave him “honest” parenting advice. My advice was: “The first year is going to suck. It will be terrible. But It will get better. And it will *keep* getting better. So hang in there.”

      I stand by that.

  13. Failure is just something that didn’t work – and was a building block for something else. (good for kids to see parents work through that – everyone has to learn to deal with things not working out without getting defeated.) Applause

  14. Keeping with your theme of writing which is important to me too, I would say following what makes you feel the most fulfilled and happy also means that when there are problems, they are ones you can deal with better. That’s why you could take the rejections, and why I’m fine with revisions.

  15. Dang, I’m always late to the party. All the good answers got taken by your other readers, and I don’t have children about which I can brag or complain about depending on my mood. Okay, I have learned to care less when I snort while laughing. And maybe to care more that I am laughing.

    1. No matter how late you are to the party, you’re always welcome. Do help yourself to the cheese tray.

      And you should never care about your laugh-snorts, Laurel. To the joke teller, they are the highest compliment.

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