Friday, June 1, 2012

Struggling with irrelevance

"Your job is done.  What you can do has already happened."  A coworker was commenting on how once we have teenagers, we have to trust in the foundation that was laid in the previous decade plus.  We have little if any big influence over choices that they will make, how they will think about themselves, or values that they will embrace.  We must simply trust that what has already been done is good enough.  At a time when all of the big boogie men type teen problems are lurking in the shadows, her comment left me in a state of quiet contemplation, laced with anxiety.  Had we done enough?  Do my sons have what it takes to resist the pressures, temptations, and innocent stupidity of their peers?  Is their own character developed enough to push back against cynicism, anger, depression, and general angst?  Will they retain their specialness or just blend in with the lowest common denominator?

Dr. Garland prepares to fall
Dr. Garland prepares to fall (Photo credit: genvessel)
The bigger questions: have I communicated clearly, how special they are?  Have I lived out my values in a visible and compelling way?  Have I given sufficient tools for problem solving and judgement?  It's like a trust fall.  I'm up on the log at summer camp, dropping down into the outstretched arms of 10 campers.  It would probably only take one or two people in that chain to break ranks and land my tush on the ground.  The big difference in this metaphor is that my children are the ones falling away from me and it is their childhood that stretches out to catch them.  Children Learn What They Live, the poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, that hung in my home as a kid, keeps playing in my mind.

"If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world."

That's all I want.  I don't have to complicate it.  I want my sons to like themselves and find love in the world. I want them to know that we accept and approve of them.  It's actually so much more than that though. We marvel at all that they are bringing to the world.  My biggest fear about the teenage years ahead is that the unique and marvelous in them will be silenced.  Ultimately, that is why I will never be irrelevant.  All of us parents will always have a job and a purpose.  Sometimes it will be to help sort out poor choices or full on catastrophe.  Sometimes it will be to set boundaries and encourage personal responsibility.  Our constant role though, no matter what happens in their life, no matter whether friends or future partners have their daily attention, is to remind them that they are loved and that they are marvelous. It is our life long job and always relevant.

Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. You certainly have done enough.

    And their teens may be a huge trial for all of you, but I believe that they will come out as full of love as you are. That's what matters.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Well as someone who needed your guidance and support during my teenager years I can testify to the fact that you indeed do have a role and the ability to make a huge impact. I think your coworker was right in that if you hadn't built a foundation of respect and trust with your boys early in life they would be less likely to come to you when they are teenagers. Even for parents who don't feel like they have that relationship with their teens it can still be your role to surround them with loving, positive, trusted adults that they can turn to. I know I didn't have that relationship with our dad but I sought out adult who could help me think through the big questions I struggled with.

    I have spent the majority of my professional career working with adolescents and I know just what a profound impact you can have on the life of a teenager. There are so many opportunities to shape the course of your life in those years and the most relevant role for all adults to play, not just parents, is to help young people identify all the important decisions they are asked to make; connect with a vision of who it is they want to be; and make decisions that support them walking down the path to their dreams.

    1. I know you are right. It's a time of transition for me as a parent. Recalibrating.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Whenever I spoke to my late gramma she would tell me (and all my cousins) that I was unique and valuable. It became a bit of a joke between the cousins but secretly we all loved it.

  6. Hi again Eltee,
    so happy to find a blog by a parent with teens. mine are 11 and 15. It is beautiful and scary to watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. and i agree, we are not irrelevant. love how you put it at the end.

    1. Teetering on the edge of the nest indeed! It is the push from the nest that gives them a reason to spread their wings. Sorry to be so corny but I couldn't keep it in...