Yesterday we talked about why adolescents despise adults. Why do I think I'm an authority the issue? Not because I've ever been an adult, but because I am still an adolescent.
But I am a parent, and I have found myself—more and more—wanting to protect the eight-year-old Scout from things that she must inevitably go through as a person. Things that make people people.
"I just don't want you to make the same mistakes I made," says a parent.
"You lived through the mistakes you made," the kid should reply. "You want me to take my chances with other mistakes?"
But it's not just negotiable risk-taking behavior. It's inevitabilities: Scout, if she is to live a full human life as her own father defines it, will: Have her heart broken violently at least once (so she knows what love is like), work in at least one job she despises (so she knows what agreeable work feels like), know and be plagued by some terrible human beings (so she appreciates good ones), and fail spectacularly or routinely in a heartfelt endeavor (so she knows what courage is).
And listen to me, trying to limit these traumas and tuck them into a nifty Emotional Education Kit that will fit into her school backpack.
Is there a more universal folly than parents trying to guide their kids toward a tidy, untroubled life?
Mantra: My job is not to protect her from life, it's to maintain her physical health long enough and help build her heart strong enough and her brain thirsty enough to take in all available joy and endure the rest with good humor.
And that's all.
And to the extent I try to achieve more than that, I'll fail—and earn the pity of a wise young girl.
I gotta cut that mantra down, it's too long.
My late paramedic pal Ed Reardon said there is no such thing as parenting. "For 18 years, your kid gets you. If you're good, that's good. If you're bad, that's bad."