You’re not supposed to live though your kids. Correcting missed opportunities and making your dreams into their dreams is universally accepted as, well, kind of wrong.
You know the things I am talking about. Parents who never made the baseball team, chastising their child for not having enough “hustle” on the diamond even though the kid would rather be coding a computer somewhere. Forcing dreams on your children isn’t a dream at all. It’s a nightmare for them and it’s not what being a parent is about.
The delicate balance is that it’s not always wrong to try to correct your own past mistakes through your child. In many cases, it’s exactly what parenting is all about.
Of course, I’m not talking about sports or activities or interests. I’m talking personality traits and the ways in which they go out into the world. When I look into the eyes of my daughter, I see the chance to give her the knowledge that no one ever gave me. I see the opportunity to teach her how to navigate her life in a way that produces happiness for herself and others. I see a path to erase future guilt and shame, like I sometimes struggle with.
I lived a lot of my younger years with scorn and snark. If a snide comment popped into my head, I needed to share it. The desire to hear laughter from others, even at the expense of someone else, was too much to resist. Because of that, anything that seemed out of the ordinary was met with a turned-up eyebrow and a sarcastic quip. Nearly everything, in my eyes, was “lame”.
Patrick was the best man at my wedding and we got along in so many ways. He really understood me and I understood him…mostly. Throughout the school year at Hofstra, we were like two pretty unhinged peas in a pod.
In the summer, though, he liked to, uh, well… dress up like a knight and go to weekend reenactment festivals with other people dressed up in medieval garb. Even now, as I write it out, I don’t fully get it. He would spend the year looking for costume materials and even more time putting them together. In the weeks leading up to the events, that’s all he could talk about. In the weeks that followed, he jumped at the chance to show everyone photographs.
See that? That armor cost $400.
You spent $400 on armor?
Yeah. Isn’t it cool?
Hmm. Is it?
The eyebrow goes up, our friends would laugh, and even Patrick would let out some good-natured ha-ha’s. No one wants to be accused of not having a sense of humor. We all had fun and, sadly, I never took the time to understand what he did, why he did it, and why it meant so much to him. I just wrote it off as “weird.” Still, he’d always show me the pictures from his latest adventure in an attempt to elicit any response he could.
When he passed away last year, I thought about those photographs a lot. I really beat myself up about them. He may have laughed, but those events meant the world to him and I, as his friend, dismissed them like they were nothing. I may not have “gotten” it, but friends don’t need to “get” it. They just need to show support.
I hadn’t shown him any support and it hurt to realize it. In life, most people don’t care about your opinions. They make it a point to tell you that through memes and social media. Your thoughts are treated like a nuisance. For the most part, no one wants to hear what you think, whether good or bad, when it comes to their own lives.
It’s the people who care about you who show you their favorite moments. Those are the ones who value you and what you think about them. Those types of people disproportionately show up in your younger years. Because of that, you mistakenly believe that your life will be filled with them. There will always be people eager to show you photographs of their summer battle armor.
There won’t be.
Sometimes they drift away. Sometimes they go away. Sometimes they pass away. But either way, they’re just not there and, as you get older, you desperately wish they were.
So, when a friend comes to Olivia and wants to share an event or activity, I will take her to ends of the Earth to be supportive. I will repeatedly tell her how proud I am that she’s a good friend and how lucky her pal is to have her in their life. I work hard to correct those mistakes that I have made in my own relationships.
I’m not a big Heaven and Hell guy, but I like to think that Patrick is somewhere, covered in homemade armor, and smiling down on me for it. I may not have gotten it then, but I get it now. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure my daughter does too.
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