I was rereading Harry Potter: the Order of the Phoenix recently when a scene made an impression on me in a way that it hadn’t before. It was the scene where Harry was able to see Snape’s memories of getting humiliated by Harry’s father and god-father when they were fifteen year olds in school. In the story the scene impacted Harry profoundly. It made him question his unwavering faith in the goodness of his idols and better understand Snape’s experience.
This reached me in a new way because I’ve become a father of my own little boy since the last time that I read the book. I thought about what Sebastian might see if he could view my life as a fifteen year old in school. What if the scene was of my worst moment from the viewpoint of someone who had reason to hate me? That’s an ugly little thought isn’t it? The problems surrounding me as a teenager were as numerous as the stars in the sky on a country night. I can scarcely remember a moment that I could point to and use an example of the life I want him to experience.
Frankly, it didn’t get much better over time. Littered throughout the first 25 years of my life are situations and examples that I don’t want my son to have to deal with. It’s interesting how far removed Sebastian will be from that. He was born when I was 36, 11 years after I started making significant strides towards maturity. The confident and capable person that he will experience as I raise him shares very little in common with the person I was before growing up.
That’s what got me thinking. I know I’m not the only one with a past that I’m not proud of that is working towards much better future. But how does that impact our kids? Most of us don’t want to talk much about our embarrassing pasts, least of all to the child that we want looking up to us as they grow older. But maybe that’s just what they need. I feel that quite a lot of the angst and anger that seems to come naturally from the teenage years has its roots in feeling misunderstood and frustrated. How much more meaningful would our advice be if our kids understood where we are really coming from. If they see that we have actually walked down these paths before and have meaningful advice for them based on experience. It’s very difficult for a teen to receive that advice from a boring old parent who doesn’t know what it’s like to go through the things that they are going through. I wager that it’s much easier for them to receive if its coming from a parent who can show that they empathize based on experience.
As I work on being the father that I want to be I hope that this lesson stays with me. There will come a point when he’s 15 and I’m 51 and he will be engaging in behavior that I dislike. I hope that I can still relate to my past and relay my experiences at that point into a meaningful tapestry of experience that he can relate to even if he doesn’t agree with what I’m saying.
I was frustrated at work today. No details for you (you nosy people). Oddly enough, it was in that moment of frustration that I had a personal realization of what respect really means and what it looks like. You guys know what personal definitions are. They are things like – Home is the place where when you go there they have to take you in. I had no intention of creating my own little way of looking at respect, but it surfaced unbidden in my mind as I tried to figure out how to get someone to see my point of view without throttling them.
Put simply, you know you respect someone when you can disagree with them completely without the slightest thought that they are stupid, inferior or morally corrupt. It’s a fun way to look at it because it allows you to identify who you really respect as opposed to who you really just put up with. Most family members pass the test in a family that relates to each other in a healthy manner. My relationship with my brothers is a good example. I grew up arguing with both of them about everything under the sun (yes, I know what that says about me). When we were all younger those arguments would lead to hard feelings. I would walk away and wonder what was wrong with them and based on my own words and behavior I’m sure they thought the same about me. As we got older those hard feelings seemed less and less prevalent. Now if we were to find ourselves in an argument it would be rare for me to think anything negative about them personally. It’s just a simple disagreement between people who respect each other. Read the rest of this entry
I never watched My Name Is Earl, but I think I have a handle on the concept. It’s the story of a man who regrets the things that he did in his past because of the long term consequences of those actions. So he’s going from person to person that he’s hurt in various ways to apologize. I bet we all have people that we’d like to apologize to or things that we’d like to apologize for. One of the things that keeps us from doing it is the embarrassment and shame that we feel for how we acted. After writing this blog for over a year I have a confession to make. I have no shame left. It’s actually quite liberating to lose your fear of condemnation. I highly recommend it. With that in mind, I’d like to share my Earl list.
I need to start with a carte blanche apology to just about everyone who has ever known me. This is especially applicable to parents, teachers, family and friends throughout my life. I’m sorry for being such a smart ass. It seems to stem from insecurity. Sometimes I did it to make myself look smart and make you feel dumb so that you could see how smart I must be. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s the truth of it. I’m sorry. Other times I would do it to get attention and try to be funny. This was a pain for the people around me, especially if they weren’t in the mood or it was an inappropriate time or place. In fact, my efforts to get a laugh probably hurt more people than all of the other things I’ve done combined. I’m sorry. Read the rest of this entry
This is an article for all of my friends who feel trapped in their heads sometimes (just like me). This article is one of the best I’ve ever read. It represents my personal philosphy and is very much what I espouse frequently on this blog.
Age is a powerful thing. We can’t refute many of the things that come with it. Wrinkles, hunched backs and lack of sleep come to mind. Wisdom is another thing that people believe is correlated with age. I think this is debatable. We’ve all seen too many well aged people who are just as foolish in their old age as they were in their youth. That alone shows that age doesn’t automatically beget wisdom. On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore how reckless and immature young people have been for generation upon generation.
This leaves us with a question to answer. What is it about age that leads to wisdom in the first place? And why does it seem to work for some people so dramatically while leaving others virtually unchanged?
If you’ve been reading my material long enough then you have probably learned that I was amazingly immature in my own youth. I used to lash out at people due to my insecurities. I wrote bad checks (frequently) because it was easier than trying to manage my limited funds. When I started my career at Blue Cross I would stop working halfway through the workday because I had already done enough work to get credit for the day. Do you get the picture? I had no claim to wisdom of any sort, I was terrible. Read the rest of this entry