What Do You Want, A Medal?
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”
This famous quote has been used countless times — mostly by parents laboring through the aggravation of their teen’s adolescence. The fact that it’s attributed to one of our most esteemed writers gives it a measure of validity. That he said it more than a century ago lends a “timeless wisdom” tag to it. We think our teenagers have no respect for us. We think that no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to inject wisdom into their hormone-riddled brains. Thus it is. Thus it has always been, thus it will always be.
If, by this, we mean to say we are not alone, we are not the first weary travelers to trod the maddening journey of launching our teens into adulthood, then that’s wonderful. Misery loves company, and the community spirit may be just what we need to help ourselves stay calm, patient, and sane.
If, however, we employ this quote to heighten our hopes that one day, someday, our teenagers will finally come to their senses and ACKNOWLEDGE, THANK, and APPLAUD us for all of our sacrifices and wisdom, then please, let’s not. Great parents do not survive the teen years by waiting for their kids’ validation. It’s never our kids’ job to validate us as parents; it’s their job to use whatever wisdom and guidance they can get to launch out into a productive life of their own. And it’s our job to help them do just that. Even if we never get any credit.
(Of course, the ironic twist is that parents who are able to let go of the need to receive that kind of validation are the ones most likely to receive it.)
Peace begins with pause,