What does it mean to be a "child"? ...
There are obvious biological differences...such as brain development...but what we have been talking about as a family are the societal expectations around this word, and the burden of being called a "child" on achieving one's potential.
Aila has been going on dog walks with her clients. They enjoy her company and talk about all sorts of things like their dogs, work, and what they did over Christmas break. She has her own phone now so she is engaging with adults on a regular basis as part of her dog sitting business.
All of Aila's clients are "adults" so naturally she is running into some rather interesting challenges. While walking with an adult women people naturally assume that the adult is her mother. Her new adult friends also seem less likely to bring up issues relating to Aila's dog sitting rates which she increased in the new year (inflation ;) which brings up a second question that has been on our minds...
What is a "student"?
Aila's students love WEquil School because they have a lot of control. They teach as a regular part of their curriculum ... even if only to their parents and our family. That's a big part of how our school works with students coming up with projects that they then present to other students each week. So while they are technically "students" they are also teachers.
Teaching is a powerful way to learn. Many experts in educational psychology go as far as to say it is the best way to learn. This is one of many reasons why we worry for kids in public school who never get a chance to teach. But teaching at WEquil School is rather different than teaching in a public school because a lot of the teachers are students.
When kids teach each other there is no social hierarchy. Teachers are not demanding respect and implying through the situation of chairs and height differential that students are less powerful than the teacher. Instead, they teach each other in a community environment where everyone understands that the goal is to learn for everyone...not just the student.
This new way of thinking about the definition of "student" makes friendships rather easy because who doesn't want to be friends with someone that is kind, knowledgable, and that can collaborate with you to learn new things!
Which bring up another question...
What is a "friend"?
Sumay's team really enjoys spending time with our family. After our daily meetings they often want to stick around and talk about ideas and share stories. Aila is experiencing something similar with her students and clients where the relationship between that and friendship becomes blurred.
Is a friend someone you care about?
Are they someone you can turn to in a time of need?
Does the fact that they are paying Aila for a service detract from Aila's ability to be their friend?
These are all valid questions that we are wrestling with. I'm not sure of the answer, but I think these are valid questions worth exploring as most ten year olds don't have the experience so the question does not naturally come up.
Another "identity" word with questioning...
What is an "employee"?
We are going to India in a few weeks to meet our CTO Paras Jain. I consider Paras to be one of my closest friends along with other members of our core team Mboya Michael and Prince Dede. These gentleman are some of the kindest and most considerate entrepreneurs and innovators I have ever met. They love my family and what we are doing so I give them boundless energy and support to help them in return.
During my professional career I would often befriend colleagues and subordinates ... inviting them to our home and create projects like writing articles with them about philosophy or whatever happened to be our shared interest.
I always wondered why others did not do this.
Was it a fear of getting too close?
Did they worry that it would compromise their professional integrity because they could not be direct about a failure to deliver or other course correction?
If so, these are understandable concerns...but are they necessary?
What is a partner?
Our family seems to operate a lot like a partnership. Running a company is very hard to do and we are running several. Mom and I don't have expectations that our children will do this forever...nor are we trying to raise them to become "Steve Jobs" as some have insinuated.
Entrepreneurship is simply a great way to learn so long as they are taking their own initiative. It is the entrepreneurial mindset they teach students at WEquil.School ... and learning to partner with their parents and siblings instead of seeing them as policeman and rivals is just one of many aspects to that shift in paradigm.
We could never succeed at building apps, running a private school, publishing papers and producing short movies together without an extremely high level of transparent communication, willingness to hear honest feedback, and openness to compromise. These skills are part of what helps any working professional succeed in any field.
My wife and I have published many papers together. Publishing papers is hard work...the primary job description of many professors at top universities. Sometimes we would need to sit down and have a discussion about expectations or express a grievance. Such is the nature of trying to collaborate on anything meaningfully hard with another human.
Sumay has had to sit me down for a talking to several times. Sometimes all my ideas get in the way of her rather aggressive ambitions for the app and her communications with her team. That's why talks like the one below happen AFTER her official meeting times.
Did she have trouble communicating her concerns with me?
She understands that as the CEO of WEquil.App she has the responsibility and every right to set boundaries and expectations for everyone in her team...including her dad.
Do I have trouble communicating my relationship with my kids to other parents?
What is the role of a parent?
I am their father, friend, coach, and subordinate...depending on the situation.
What do these words mean in this context?
Let me try...
As a "Father" ... I will always be there for them and give them everything I have in terms of love, patience, kindness, financial resources, and time no matter what until I die.
As a "Friend" ... I will always lift them up by supporting their vision for their lives, help them find joy and laughter through shared experiences, and be honest with them when they ask for my opinion no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel.
As a "Coach" ... I will always be ready to help guide them when asked so they don't feel they need to make their life journey alone. In this capacity I will always strive to help them move forward in the direction they they wish to go no matter my own personal opinions and ambitions.
As a "Subordinate" ... I will always let them lead when it comes to their WEquil School projects big or small...whether it is a serious business or silly comedy video. These are their initiatives and my role is to help or get out of the way.
What is a "spouse"?
I've had similar struggles communicating my understanding of the word "spouse" and related expectations...but let me try.
What is a spouse?
As a "Spouse" ... I will always love and support my wife. I will never give up. I will always apologize when I fail. I will never demand her to change. I will always be honest. I will always put her first above all and be loyal and faithful until death do us part.
Ok...that's pretty boiler plate and obviously I fail all the time. Marriage is extremely challenging. I think the meaning of "Spouse" gets confusing when you see how married couples apply these promises in practice.