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Want greatness from your kids? Believe in them

for The Brooklyn Paper
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My teenagers seem to be dreaming about their futures, the lives they will lead, toying with desires for accomplishments and renown.

I have a secret belief that one path to achieving these aspirations comes from having a parent who believes in you, roots for you, sees the wonder and potential in you as a child. I think of myself as one of those parents, but I’m no longer sure I want to be.

I have been thinking a great deal about Lara Logan, the CBS News correspondent who was sexually assaulted while covering the upheaval in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Her ordeal shook me as a parent.

Part of my reaction is because her profession, journalist, is a real job, something my daughters could easily end up doing. It’s like being a lawyer, a banker, even a teacher, one of those careers that, when brought up around the dinner table, makes me say, “Absolutely, you could do that.”

More to the point, I have imagined Logan’s father. I know nothing about the man, still I expect he’s they type who said, “Don’t end with the school newspaper, aim high, be the best, do great things.” Perhaps she would have stopped when she got a job with the Durban Daily News, but he said, “What do you really want to do? Television news? You can do it.”

Amazingly, she did, just as I hope my daughters will, with whatever they end up doing — be a Supreme Court justice, make movies, even teach yoga, just do it really well. But I never consider the dangers, the risks of my girls’ aspirations. I am an unquestioning cheerleader, as I imagine Daddy Logan was.

Did he ever think of the dangers that could come from his daughter’s success? How does he feel now that she has achieved everything he encouraged her to strive for and it landed her in the hospital for days after being attacked by a crazed, violent mob, rescued by women and soldiers, taken by emergency airlift out of Egypt?

Of course the real question is, how would I feel? Guilty? Responsible? Should I discourage my children’s ambitions? Try to keep them close to home, safe?

I told Logan’s story to my 13-year-old and that I was unsure about supporting her dreams if they could lead her to harm. She said, “Dad, there are risks in everything, even taking the subway or flying to a vacation.” She rejected the notion that she should choose her career based on my concern for her safety.

She’s right. One can never avoid risk. And I would be distraught if anything happened to my daughters, whether they were crossing the street or reporting news halfway around the world. At the same time, I want them to do great things, or whatever they do, I want them to go all in with ambition, excitement and gusto because that will make them happiest.

So when Logan is physically healed and she tells her dad she’s heading back to a war zone, or the next hot spot to cover the big story, I don’t think he’ll suggest she give up this reporting gig and try opening a shop, or becoming a librarian.

I think he’ll be proud of her and believe in her every bit as much as he ever has — because that’s the father I hope he is (and I hope I am, too).

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Reader Feedback

Syndicate from Santa Monica, CA says:
You know, I've thought a great deal about Ms. Logan's misfortune as well. But I wouldn't feel worry about your daughters.

I didn't even know who Lara Logan was before this all happened. Having looked her up since, I am struck by what a life she has led! That gal has been everywhere, seen all kinds of things. And survived all of it, no matter her recent misfortune. She will tell her own kids and grandkids the most wonderful stories, the most terrible stories, all learned first-hand. They will be thrilled with their ancestor and her achievements. If anything, learning about her life, the risks she took and crazy moxie she's used to get there, it makes me wonder about my own life a bit. I've been to Asia, to Europe, I've got some crazy stories myself. But not an entire life of them like Logan. I imagine many eighty year-olds would envy her life in entirety and she's not even forty.

I wouldn't worry about your daughters and the risks they face. The rewards of life - the real ones anyways - are always commensurate to their various risks. Its the way things seem to be morally designed for us humans. If anyone understands that, I imagine its Lara Logan. I don't know what she'll do with the rest of her life, but it will be life well spent I am thinking. Logan seems very good at getting most out of her life, as she wants it to be, lumps and all. I hope your children are so lucky.
March 8, 2011, 1:38 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
when I think of my kids, Lara Logan does not come to mind...nor does Daniel Goldstein...nor does Evel Kneivel.
March 8, 2011, 10:56 am
fatimah from cobble hill says:
Face it folks, Middle Eastern countries are male-dominated.
If Lara Logan had covered her hair and neck, refrained from wearing revealing clothing, and been more tactful when questioning Egyptian men, she may have avoided attack.
Single women acting agressively or like a man in Middle Eastern countries is not smart.
US media should follow the customs of the countries they are following.
It's not a question of womens' liberation, it is a question of survival.
March 8, 2011, 3:02 pm
Jeanette Grayeb-Mihal from Bay Ridge says:
I read with interest your article advocating support for your children. While I agree in substance, there comes a point where certain life styles and professions lead to extreme danger, and it becomes just stupid to pursue a dream where your life is in danger. As adults we also must take personal responsibility for ourseleves as well as our families. It can't always be about me, and what I want. What if Logan had died, and left her young children to grow up without a mother. I respect your opinion, but don't agree with the conclusion.
March 9, 2011, 11:20 am

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