Abraham Lincoln occasionally wrote nasty letters to his generals that he never sent. Just writing what he called these “hot letters” made him feel better.
I wrote one of those the other day—to my own daughter.
My dad Thomas Murray wrote in the introduction to his book, A Child to Change Your Life, “It is terribly easy to create and to love a little child. But it is a terribly difficult and consuming job to mold one into a good human being. I think those of us who have been through the whole experience owe it to those who haven’t to tell them what it’s really like. And maybe to acknowledge that both the people who decide they can do it and those who decide they can’t may be making equal contributions to the world of happy, helpful human beings.”
Meanwhile, though, even the people who have raised one or more basically happy, helpful human beings reach the edge of their rope, especially when those human beings are still in touch with their adolescence, and variably capable of maintaining perspective.
For instance, the other day, after what seemed to me to be too much complaining about a boring summer in Chicago, away from college friends, I typed this as part of a series of constructive texts about how to make the time pass. And then deleted it. (Well, after taking a screen shot because I was already laughing at it.)
Yes, the very Grandaddy who came back from the war, raised two sets of kids, wrote A Child to Change Your Life when I was little and then tried his best to raise his only son as a “happy, helpful human being”—sometimes, by hollering at my adolescent self, “The world does not revolve around David Murray!”
Wherever he is, he’s glad I didn’t send that text. But I know he chuckled when I typed it—maybe, along with Abraham Lincoln.
And my daughter will chuckle about it too, one day.