Tonight my son Keila did the Samoan Fire Knife Dance in front of several Army generals who were in town for some meetings. He learned the dance from me, his father. I learned the dance from the first Keila, my father. So literally we’ve passed the torch from generation to generation. Of course there is a much more important torch that must be passed if we are to make an impact and create a lasting legacy.
One of us is too old to be doing this!
And as I thought of this literal torch my father passed to me and I in turn passed to my son, I was reminded of three things one should avoid when passing the torch to the next generation.
1) Downplaying the risks – When I was first teaching Keila to do the fire dance he was visibly scared of the fire. I told him not to worry. I explained that the flame was always moving so it wouldn’t burn him. The problem was the first time he messed up the flame stopped and he got burned. I lost credibility and he lost some momentum in his training. As we mentor our sons and daughters, we certainly want them to be courageous, but we must be careful when downplaying the risks in doing something significant. If they do something great, it will undoubtedly come with some pushback. They shouldn’t fear the opposition but it’s important they know it exists.
2) Trying to MAKE them pick up the torch – My two oldest sons also began training to be a fire dancer. I remember excitedly teaching them the basic spin of the knife. I was thrilled to pass on my skill to my heir. The problem was they weren’t all that interested. I tried to push them into it, but it was pointless. Keila on the other hand, from day one, was eager to learn the next move and the next move. Passing on the torch happens best when it is their passion. We can invite them, we can teach them, we can encourage them, and we can entice them with all the benefits, but ultimately they must choose.
3) Making yourself the standard – in my day I was considered a pretty good fire dancer. I’m sure early on I slipped in that little bit of trivia to my sons. Thankfully Keila only listened to a point. I served as a good model for him as he learned the art of fire dancing. Today, he’s much better at his art than I ever was. What a shame it would have been if he had considered me the ultimate standard to achieve! In the same way as we are training our kids we must be a model for them. At the same time we should allow them to develop into the people God has created them to be. Like my two older sons, there will be things we love that they will never embrace. But there will be places they will soar that you had no idea. Too often we live vicariously through our children, which puts undo pressure on them and limits their God given potential in something else.
What is the legacy you want to pass on? What torch did you pick up from you mother or father?