Dad Heads Back to School Armed With "Life Experience"

But is it enough?

Dad Heads Back to School Armed With "Life Experience"

Dad and daughters at a desk learning about lego

As an 18 year-old, I liked to wear my pants down pretty low - low enough that if I saw someone wearing their pants that low today, at the age of 36, I’d probably mutter to myself “pull up yo’ damn pants.”

Then I’d reflect on how hypocritical we can be if we allow ourselves to put a little bit of time and space between the us-es we are over time.

As an 18 year-old, I also began my first turn through university. It was fun, but probably too much fun the way being at a bar is fun. I read a lot and I wrote a lot but I didn’t thrive in those first few years of university. Still, I took a lot away from my time in the post-secondary world.

From there I moved on to college, then to a job, then to marriage and to home ownership and to children of my own.

Now, 18 years after being an 18 year-old university student, I’m doing it again. I’m starting up my academic learning engine and looking to go get myself a degree in Women and Gender Studies. Because damn it, grownups don't know much either, even though we are extremely good at sharing opinion as fact. It will be kind of cool to be able to tell my daughters that I need to do my homework too, and that my homework will give me a better understanding of the world they're growing up in.

I'm scared as hell that I won't do well. But what I have now that I didn’t have then is “life experience.”

“Life experience” is one of those terms that 18 year-old me hated. “I have life experience too damn it,” I’d think when someone got exemptions from a class for having it in greater quantities than me. It was an airy thing I didn’t acknowledge. Much the same way I figured people would hire me even if I did wear my pants at my knees during my job interview because “they’ll hire me for my personality and my good ideas, not my clothes. And if they don’t, their loss.”

I miss the unfounded confidence young me had, but am grateful to have discovered that older me truly does have “life experience,” and that “life experience,” is as tangible a thing as everyone made it out to be.

  • it’s staying up all night, but because your kid keeps throwing up and you have the laundry running on full speed.
  • it’s explaining to your kid that it’s okay to be upset that someone called them a dumb dumb at school but that they should know they’re amazing and that we always love them.
  • it’s getting in fights with your partner and then realizing that without a strong front, you have no chance at surviving the fights your kids are going to throw at you.
  • it’s trying to pretend you’re asleep when your kid starts fussing at 3 a.m. and you know your partner is doing the same but you really have to go to the bathroom so damn it, you’re up.
  • it’s answering the question “why?” hundreds of times a day with a fresh and interesting answer each and every time.
  • it’s worrying what the problem is when your daycare provider leaves a message saying “give me a call, it’s about xx.”
  • it’s finally realizing “holy shit, I’m wrong, about a lot of stuff, a lot of the time.”
  • and, it’s about having a small child, or multiple small children, in your house who rely on you to make decisions that will not only hopefully help them grow into wonderful humans, but also, just to live.

I’m a shy man by nature. That doesn’t change whether I’m in a room with people my age, people older than me or people younger than me. I’m intimidated sitting in a classroom full of students who understand the concepts being tossed around in our lectures and discussions.

Having kids, having a supportive partner, and having all this experience is what I hope makes this return to school easier. I hope thinking about my daughters as I sit listening to the way we’ve been conditioned to think about the relationship between men and women makes it easier to think critically and to share my own voice.

Still, I’m interested to see how a man raised on He-Man and his Polly Pocket lampshade is able to interact with a generation of humans who have always had South Park around to teach them about life, and more importantly, have been raised in a world where Hermione Granger’s wisdom has always been readily available.

I think  it’s incredibly important that as parents we admit we don’t know anything and that in order to know slightly more than nothing, we need to always be learning - whether that’s formal, self-guided or experiential, whatever. I’m grateful that I’m in a position to be able to do this by going back to university. And I have the back to school picture to prove it.

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