Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
The thought has often crossed my mind that these staff letters offer me an
opportunity that most adults never have, the chance to communicate with a
sizable group of young people. Not that I am feeling old, even though tomorrow
is my birthday. No, I don't feel old at all (well, not too old anyway), but in
these the last hours of my forty-seven-ness, I can safely announce that I am no
longer a "kid." And yet, I am my mother's child and will always be so. And I
am, more than ever, influenced by my father's words, which I hear in my mind
every day though they have not entered my ears for several years.
As I think back on my childhood I realize how little I was aware of the trials
and tribulations I presented to my parents. Nor did I understand how invested
parents are in their children's lives. I imagine this may be a new thought for
you as well. Now that I am a parent (and have been for twenty years) I finally
understand it. We parents can't help but take pride in our children's
accomplishments. We also cannot help worrying to the "nth" degree about our
kids' problems. Maybe part of the reason for this is the wonder of life.
Given all of the great things a person may accomplish in his or her life, there
is nothing as awesome as giving life, as raising a child, as being a part of
the miracle. And it is not just the miracle of birth; it's the miracle of life
and growing and thinking and loving. All of it.
What I don't think I understood as a child is how scary it is as well. Every
day we parents read and hear about the tragedies of life and think about all of
the ways things can go wrong. As we grow older we understand too well how
frail and fragile we all are. It scares us for our kids.
Parents of older kids walk a particularly difficult tightrope. It is hard to
keep your balance between giving the freedom your child thinks he/she should
have, and exercising the authority that comes with the responsibility of being
a parent. When to step in, and when not to, is often a tough call. And kids
really cannot appreciate their parents' dilemma. My dad used to say that when
he was eighteen years old he thought his father was the dumbest person in the
world. But he also said that when he turned twenty-two he was amazed at how
much his father had learned in just four years. As difficult as it is to grow
up, to be a teenager, to be someone's child; it is at least as difficult to be
a child's parent.
Most parents come to understand that there are few right and
wrong answers to the questions that life throws us; but you do the best you
can, you love your kids, try to be a good person and teach them to be good too.
Pete Seeger once said that being a parent is the only job where one doesn't get
paid in dollars; rather, parents collect their salaries in the smiles they see
on their children's faces. We can all be better sons and daughters. Perhaps
we should give our parents a raise. Add a hug to their paycheck.