I was having a conversation with a friend of mine last night about our kids. In the course of it, I realized that there is certain amount of heartache involved in being a parent. When my kid seems off course or seems to be in pain, it just hurts! This pain is the price of admission to parenthood.
He asked me what he could do to help his teenager avoid the pain involved in growing up. I thought for a minute and said, “Aside from planting seeds and holding the boundaries, nothing. You can’t save him.”
The idea of being able to save any of my kids has always proven to be an illusion. What am I saving them from? I figured, as I grew and learned, what I was learning would immediately be instilled in my kids. Nope, not even close! I’m now clear the best I’m doing is planting seeds. They might germinate at some later time, but there is certainly no guarantee.
I rationally know that the pain of life is necessary. It’s what gets our attention and leads us to the processes of learning and growing. It’s certainly been that way for me! I’ve never experienced transformation by walking through the doorway of comfort and ease. So, in applying this philosophy to being a dad, I’m aware that shielding my kids from the painful consequences of their decisions would rob them of the opportunity to learn and grow.
That doesn’t mean I sit dispassionately on the sidelines. No way! When I see something that concerns me, I step in to deliver both support and insight— I just don’t necessarily expect or require my adult children to use any of it. I respect that they are on a certain trajectory, just like I am. Still, my heart can hurt. Awareness doesn’t replace emotion. They co-exist.
When my friend expressed a desire to save his teen son from being misguided by people, and for him develop unshakeable integrity, I understood! However, I also opined that we are all growing in pretty predictable patterns. You can’t expect a teenager to have the development of a 40-year-old guy. You can’t expect to be today what you may become tomorrow. It takes confronting challenges, being flexible, and then adapting in order to grow. It’s the human way. Transformation is embodied through direct action, not mere consideration. You need to put your back (and emotion) into it!
We wish our kids knew what we know. We forget how we got to where we are. We are vibrant, amazing beings that face challenges, extract value from those challenges, and hopefully linger on the painful part of it as little as we need to.