As a new parent, there’s so much I don’t know. Every day is filled with a choose-your-own-adventure series of decisions and frankly, most of the time I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong. Advice comes flying at me from all corners—some welcomed, some intimidating, and sometimes in the form of tires and handlebars.
When I attended the first graduation of the Emprendedora Technical School in Nicaragua earlier this month, it was not the students I marveled at. Yes, of course they were amazing: fueled by a deep-seated motivation to be the first in many of their families to graduate from high school. Excited to share their hearts and plans and challenges with me.
But their parents and grandparents...they were the ones I fixated on. They were protective, solemn even, until they talked about their children. They delighted in celebrating how far they’ve come, how far they could go, how much they enjoy the young adults they’ve become. When asked about their own sacrifices in helping their kids receive a quality education, they seemed confused—as in, you mean running four businesses to pay for tuition is a sacrifice? Oh sure, then yeah I guess that.
Guillermo was no different.
With a dirt floor underfoot, an inexplicable pile of burning leaves at the end of the driveway and a thick grove of banana trees surrounding their house, we sat on the front porch as Guillermo told me about his daughter Jacqueline’s graduation day. He said it was one of the most incredible things he had ever seen, a coming-together of all types of people in one beautiful celebration. Jacqueline was in the first class of Emprendedora students, and after hunkering down for five years, she graduated with honors and a 96% average. Given that she sleeps in one room with her two siblings and two parents, and there is only one fluorescent light illuminating their entire two-room home, there are a number of challenges that could have prevented her from succeeding. But she has grit, and she knew her chance to seize a great education was through Emprendedora.
Guillermo wants Jacqueline to focus solely on her education next year in university. And while Jacqueline spends her days studying, Guillermo will do what he does best—figuring out how to give his daughter everything she needs to succeed. Already he has sold pigs and chickens when he could not manifest a month’s tuition. Already he has spent an excruciating time away from his family in Costa Rica to work a construction gig that could support his family back home.
Already he has worked slowly and steadily to give his daughter what she needs, perfecting the “long game” of providing. In fact, when she was just a 13-year-old walking an hour to/from Emprendedora every day, Guillermo focused on acquiring a handlebar; then a gear; then a tire—until one day he could assemble her very own bike, so that Jacqueline could ride to school safely and swiftly each day.
And now, even though he is looking into the abyss of Jacqueline’s secondary education knowing it will be more expensive than he can currently afford, Guillermo knows he will simply find a way to make it work. I know Jacqueline will make it to and through college, because not only is she incredible and talented and driven, but she has a secret weapon on her side—a person willing to sacrifice and slave until he can give her what she deserves. The gift Guillermo gave me was a simple page out of the book on how to be a great parent. I think of his sacrifices, small and large: sometimes an accumulation of bicycle parts, sometimes a split decision to sell a pig on the day tuition is due. I think of how privileged I will be to make these sacrifices for my own daughter, to devote myself to the long-game, to collect our own version of tires and handlebars.