I’m a dad. I have the most awesome son in the world. He’s two and a half years old. Throughout his life I’ve noticed him having quite an effect on people. It started on Facebook when I’d post pictures of him. He always generated more likes than anything else I’d post. He even got the attention of an artist friend of mine in London who asked if he could be part of her latest work (art below). As he got older and had better control of his body and words, I’d take him to the park or to the store and people would ask how old he was and say how mature he was for his age. Lately he’s been creating some incredible effects and I was lucky to film one of them and post it on YouTube. Some of my friends expressed interest in reading what I had to say about parenting and raising such a super kid, so I decided to finally tackle the subject. It also gives me a chance to tell the story behind the YouTube video I just uploaded. I’m sure everyone will love and be amazed by it. So here goes my viewpoint as a parent.
Parenting is something I never thought much about but when the time came to be a parent I suddenly realized no one had ever clearly explained how all of this would be. Sure, people that have kids will laugh and say things like “Good luck waking up in the middle of the night,” or “There goes your free time,” but too many details were missing. Having gone through the whole waking up in the middle of the night thing, changing diapers, rocking my son to sleep in about a million different ways, I can understand why people don’t elaborate on the experience. It’s because everyone is faced with the most difficult task they will ever have to do and no matter what happens, the job has to get done and by the end of it you’re at a loss for words as to what exactly happened; it becomes a big blur. Well, I learned a few things that helped me get through the blur and they helped give me the happiest kid you’ll ever see.
My son’s name is Sage. Sage basically means an old wise man. I was flipping through a book about seven years ago when I saw the word and thought how it would be an awesome name for a boy. I should also mention his middle name is Kal-El which is Superman’s real name. I wanted my son to be smart, strong, able, caring, dynamic and help people. I wanted him to have a different kind of name because I thought of him as an individual. I didn’t want him to be me. I wanted him to be himself. I didn’t talk to him like he was a baby. No goo goo’s and ga ga’s. I talked to him like he was my friend, like an adult. I gave him space and independence but always stayed close enough to prevent him from hurting himself. When he did get hurt I didn’t baby him or show him sympathy; I just put his attention on the next thing. I didn’t invalidate him. I didn’t make him wrong or make him feel like he’d done something bad. I validated him. All the time I told him things like, “Good job!” or “Alright!” or “You did it!”
I knew he was watching and learning from my example so I tried my best to be the best person I could be around him. I wasn’t perfect and I didn’t expect him to be. We both did our best to not be too serious and have fun with what we did. I got excited when we were going to do something and he’d get excited too. It wasn’t easy and there were times I felt like throwing in the towel but I knew my worst was someone else’s best and tried to keep things in perspective. Overall, it took patience, good communication, good control, no punishment and lots of encouragement.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took Sage hiking and towards the end of our walk a family was walking towards us. Without saying a word, Sage walked up to the son and hugged him. Then he walked up to the daughter and hugged her too. The family and the kids were dumbfounded. I had to break the silence and told Sage, “Say, good to meet you.” He extended his hand out with tremendous purpose and said “Good to meet you,” to each person one by one. It was the most beautifully moving thing I’d ever seen in my life. When we walked away I told my wife, “My god, I wanted to cry,” she said, “Me too.”
Recently, we took a trip into Manhattan and came across a couple of street performers in Union Square. We stopped to watch a man playing a piano and another doing an interpretational dance to the music playing. The man dancing had big bushy hair, only wore underwear and tennis shoes, and had a fairly large audience watching him. I noticed Sage was excited to see him dancing and I could tell he wanted to get into the act. He did and I was able to film him as he made his way into the circle and it was a proud moment for me to watch him performing on the streets of New York City at 2 years old. Here's the YouTube video of him dancing:
I try to approach things as an artist. Parenting is definitely an art and you either become the starving artist parent, pointing at all of the barriers, or you become the master or genius artist parent, pointing at all of the freedoms. Watching my son running through the park with other kids, giving voices to the toys he plays with at home, saying thank you to the clerk at Trader Joe’s, or dancing in front of a crowd of people, makes me think I helped to give my son a little more freedom than most. I used to think he was my greatest masterpiece but now I realize he’s really his own. I just gave him a brush or two, he supplied the paint.
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When I was 12 years old I was watching lots of movies but I never got the idea that I could be directing them. In 2006, then 12 year-old Emily Hagins of Austin, Texas completed her film which took her two years to write, produce, direct and edit herself. She took a strong interest in movies at an early age and when "The Lord of the Rings" hit theaters she had to watch it over and over and over again, dozens of times. The movie inspired her so much she decided she wanted to make movies and be a director. She knew absolutely no one in the film or entertainment business so she decided to ask the only person she knew for help: Peter Jackson, the director of "The Lord of the Rings!" Emily's letter to the director was responded to with a recommendation to talk to a friend of his that lived in Austin, where Emily was. That friend didn't know what to do other than invite the young girl to his annual film festival where the young girl watched a zombie movie she absolutely fell in love with and decided right then she wanted her first movie to be about zombies.
Within two months Emily had written a script for a full length film with lots of scenes and tons of roles. When she showed her parents they were encouraging and supportive but weren't too sure how likely it was she was going to be able to finish making her movie. Using a small handheld video camera, a microphone attached to an old painter's stick, a cast of actors recruited from her school and a very loving mom to apply zombie make up to dozens of people, Emily Hagins made her first film at the age of 12. Her film "Pathogen" was shown publicly to all of her friends and got her lots of media attention. A documentary film was made about her directing her film called "Zombie Girl" and Emily has gone on to make numerous short films and two more full length films, one about ghosts and the other about vampires. Her third film about vampires called "My Sucky Teen Romance" was filmed when Emily was 18 years-old and received a theatrical distribution deal.
Given Emily's lack of connections, lack of resources, lack of funding and her age, directing a full length movie should be impossible. Somehow this talented, driven and passionate young girl found a way to get a movie made and it led her to more movies and with each film, her experience and skills have increased. Her current projects look much more professional and polished. By the time Emily is in her twenties or thirties, she should be a real force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. While the rest of us were being spectators and watching worlds unfold on our television and movie screens, as a kid Emily Hagins was creating and shaping her own worlds for others to watch. Her story is truly inspiring because she never saw a barrier to her purpose, she just set out to learn and do the things that were needed to get the job done. If a 12 year-old girl can make a full length film, what can we as adults accomplish with tremendously more at our disposal? We don't have homework or curfews to deal with, but perhaps we have children of our own that need our time and attention. Well, why not take your children and put a camera in their hands and shoot something together? There are only the barriers we decide to place on ourselves and so many amazing freedoms we have if we only dare to look. Why not capture them?
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In the early 1900's a young boy named Philo Farnsworth and his family moved into a farm home in Idaho with built-in electricity. Philo was enthralled with how electricity was used and stumbled upon stacks of technology magazines in the attic of his new home, as well as a burned out electric motor he began tinkering with. After further studies into this newly emerging technology utilizing electricity, Philo began to imagine a device that could operate much in the same way a radio did, except in addition to transmitting sound, it would also transmit moving pictures.
At 14 years old, he walked into his school and showed his teacher a design for the first television by drawing it on the chalkboard. The teacher was amazed and recommended he seek out professionals in the field at a nearby university. Within a few years that same boy would be credited as the inventor of the electric television and won the patent rights in large part to his teacher who had luckily written down the boy's design that one day. The rest is history. He went on to create many more inventions and garnered an unprecedented deal with RCA,.
Television has impacted the world in such a huge way that it becomes almost impossible to measure its true influence on the world. It has allowed for such a tremendous amount of knowledge and information to be shared across the entire planet. It has enabled us to view what transpires in any part of the globe as it happens without having to be there in person. It has allowed anyone to watch the World Series or a Presidential Inauguration or see their favorite singer. This invention has made its way into practically every living room in the world, changing our daily habits. It has also enabled computer technology,smart phones and countless other viewing devices.
It is truly remarkable that a 14 year-old boy living on a farm in Idaho discovered some old magazines, saw the potential in an emerging technology and imagined an entirely revolutionary new idea for spreading and sharing everyone else's ideas. Television has become such a monumental milestone in human interaction and it is all because a young boy took interest enough in the world around him to imagine a better world filled with something new. I dare to imagine what our world of tomorrow would look like if the 14 year-old boys of today looked to their own attics and burned out motors, studied, dreamed and ventured to write something on their teacher's chalkboard. I'm sure he'd see something important in the drawings. I know the world would.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.