I’ve been watching with an almost out-of-body-like perspective lately as my families goes through another of so many changes. My son is seventeen now and my daughter nearly fourteen. We raised them to have their own hearts, mind and voices… and I am here to tell you, that is not always easy, comfortable or pretty when the other edge of one of the swords you created cuts back against you.
It is essential as my kids begin to reach ages where they not only have their own thoughts and opinions that they are able to express them and defend them without feeling oppressed or restrained. Ideally, they will have given them considerable thought before they do express themselves, but that is oft-times where the whole matter kind of leaves the rails.
You see, a seventeen year old young man or a neigh fourteen year old daughter will not always go through the internalization and consideration that may be due a stand that they take before openly taking it. No, they may climb right out on that limb; saw in hand. They may in fact just take a stand because it is other than what you have declared or a position you have taken. I know; you are shocked… right?
Imagine a young person taking issue with something that a parent has said to them, suggested about them or asked of them? As unlikely as that may sound (he said sarcastically and knowingly), these are the times that truly “…try men’s souls.” So there you stand caught squarely between the idealistic and ardent philosophy you espouse whereby you allow the brilliant young citizens you are raising to openly and freely express themselves (the rock) and the fact that what they are saying is shortsighted, uninformed, hopelessly unsustainable or even dumb position they have assumed or thought they have espoused or fight they have picked (the hard-place). What then?
So there you are, fighting with your own dichotomy. Suddenly you are caught up in your own parent/child struggle… and not the one in front of you, but the one inside your own head; that you had years earlier with your own folks. You hear the voice of the child and the voice of the parent both coming from out of your own mouth. You want to defend the right of youth to form their own opinions and develop their own critical thinking skills, but then you hear your mouth say, “Because I said so!” or one of those same many “blat”-itudes that your parents hurled at you so many years earlier. Yes, inexplicably and without warning, I often begin channeling my father and while my outer voice is saying long-forgotten things that he said to me, inside I hear him laughing and smirking as it all comes back…
I year or so ago, I awoke one day to the face of my father looking back at me from the opposite side of the bathroom mirror. It startled me tremendously; mostly because he was grinning and for all I am worth, I tell you I was not. Yes, he was there staring back at me from the infinity of that reflection in my mirror and his silent grin spoke plainly to me. Without a word he said, “So I was the fool; right? I was the oppressor… the tyrant… the unenlightened. And you were the brilliant youth longing to be free. Well here you are now and I can rest in peace knowing that you now have the watch. But understand, temper your temper… Watch how you tend your watch. It will end soon enough and you will be the face on this side of the mirror.”