There are some drawbacks to being 59 years old with two young children. I don’t have as much energy as I used to have, and I can’t keep up with them physically. I get tired and grumpy too easily. I think of a good friend of mine who commented a few years back, “I remember wondering why old people always complained about noise.”
On the other hand, I have a lot more patience. I’ve already learned that life is not much more than work, something I didn’t know when I was younger. So I don’t resent their demands on my time as I might have when I was younger. I actually enjoy a lot of it. And I’ve decided that, with all of my education, world travels, and unusual experiences, about the best thing I’ve ever experienced is two chubby little arms hugging on my neck.
We hear that our children are mirrors of ourselves. Now that I have children, I think it’s a little more complicated.
Children are more like funhouse mirrors of us. We see ourselves exaggerated in some aspects, and minimized in others. If we are fortunate, and we parent our children well, we may look in the mirror and see a better version: it’s sort of like seeing broader shoulders, a narrower waist, taller, and handsomer facial features. Except that the important exaggerations we see in our children aren’t physical.
So far, patience and love with my children have paid off nicely. My kids are a lot sharper than I was at their ages. I was a decent student, but their reading and math skills, their knowledge of art, music, world history and current events, are years beyond where I was as a kid.
And somewhere along the way they have also picked up a keen interest in language, and a sarcastic sense of humor (I have no idea where that comes from). Not only can they hold their own in a discussion or a ribbing, sometimes when they give better than they take.
And they’re only 5 & 11. The future should prove interesting.
Of course, the funhouse mirror can also show us a worse version of ourselves. When we are impatient with our children, or angry and intolerant with them, then we see our worst aspects amplified, and our best parts are minimized.
I have to admit, I see that too. When my kids are frustrated, they say the same things I say. Sometimes they even include the expletives; that, of course, leads to some rather hypocritical discipline.
I’m thinking about all of this with the angry intolerance we are seeing in the social and political arena today. We live with more luxury and freedom than anyone in the history of the world, and yet so many people are so angry about so many things. I think this is because powerful interests have found it profitable to make us angry., and to keep us divided.
I am worried about the long term effects of this. Do the people who have been fed a steady diet of anger spread that anger around their workplaces and their communities? At times it seems so. I have seen patients, faculty, and co-workers who are angry a lot of the time, and there seems to be at least some correlation between personal anger and the anger in their preferred news media and ideologies. Of course, it is not clear which came first, the anger or the media; but together both certainly create a bad spiral.
I have also seen personal anger spill over into on-line discussions, on sports boards, political forums, reddit, Facebook, et al. There are people who rarely say anything positive, but they show up and spew venom over all sorts of discussions. They even take discussions that are about one thing, and hold up a straw man to talk about some unrelated point of their political ire.
And finally, I am concerned about the longest and largest impact that negativity has on our world; specifically, I am worried about the impact on our children. Do angry people bring that negativity home, and then feed it to their children?
Do they curse our future as they curse those who disagree?
When angry people look in the funhouse mirror, I wonder who they see. And I wonder what will we all see in the future because of it.
Picture of Aflred Hitchcock courtesy of theredlist.fr on Pinterest.
Celebration graphic courtesy of 123FreeVectors.com.
‘Beautiful Girl’ courtesy PlayBuzz.com via Pinterest.