Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visiting the kids

"Your kids will start giving you trouble at that age, unless they're like Collin's perfect children."

I heard that remark some months back, and it made me wonder what I'd been saying about the kids to my colleagues. Whatever it was, I guess it reflects my view of them.

The lovely Carol and I have been visiting the kids, now that they are both away at college, and seeing them in their new environs makes me even more aware that they are, well -- they are not "girls" any more; they really are young women. They have their own campuses, their own friends, their own rooms. We don't hear them coming home after class or after meetings or.... They really are "away"; they've left the nest. You might imagine that this has created a lot of complicated feelings in both parents, and you'd be right.

This morning, I picked up Merton and opened to his chapter on "Sincerity", which I don't recall reading before. Here I found this:

Your idea of me is fabricated with materials you have borrowed from other people and from yourself. What you think of me depends on what you think of yourself. Perhaps you create your idea of me out of material that you would like to eliminate from your own idea of yourself. Perhaps your idea of me is a reflection of what other people think of you. Or perhaps what you think of me is simply what you think I think of you.
I suppose I "knew" -- in a manner of speaking -- that how I think of the kids is affected by my view of myself. But which of Merton's distortions is operating when I look at the kids? Or is there yet another one? There are ways in which I wish I were different -- more understanding, less inept socially; I wish I were a better friend, less of a procrastinator -- am I projecting the person I wish I were -- dumping that onto my poor kids? I hope not! I know they are better students than I ever was (as their grades attest) -- so I'm not making that part up. They have nice friends -- for the most part, nicer friends than I had in high school. And they do sometimes procrastinate, though not as badly as I did in college.

Well, as I've said before, "Every father thinks his kids are geniuses, and I'm no exception." I know that the lovely Carol has something to do with them, as do I, but Harris's The Nurture Assumption makes me hesitate to take too much credit.

So I don't have this all figured out, but I wanted to tell you about it anyway. It sure is complicated being a dad -- not just stuff that a dad "does," but the personal growth that comes with it. It's definitely not for wimps.

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