Yesterday was The Boy's graduation party. I took the day off on Friday to relax and work on party preparation; so my son and I were home together for most of the day. In the early part of the afternoon, we had a conversation (OK, it's true - I did most of the talking) and I told The Boy this:
When I was growing up - a teenager like The Boy is now, and even earlier - I wanted to be rich and famous. I figured that I would be an actor, an author, a singer/songwriter - or at least a disc jockey (I assumed ascending to that low rung of the celebrity ladder would be the worst I could do!). I would make my way in the world with my creativity - and people would know my name.
But I also wanted marriage and a family. I didn't think of these desires for fame and starting a family as being at cross purposes - but, of course, they are. And as I matured, it became an easy decision to set aside my dreams of glory in order to give my best to the reality of my wife and children. I didn't view it as a sacrifice. Just a decision - that what was most important in my life was the people I loved, the people around me - not the opportunity to be loved anonymously by the thousands (or the millions) I would never know.
Out of that decision, of course, many more arose. Some out of practical necessity, others of opportunity, others of convenience or habit. How could I best provide for my family? What sort of work could I do that would suit my personal preferences while being lucrative enough, stable enough to plan for the future. Who would hire me? How could I best ensure a steady stream of income for myself and my family?
And in this process, I began to learn my lines as husband and father, I composed emails rather than songs, wrote project plans instead of story outlines, did my DJ-ing by creating mix tapes* rather spinning records during the afternoon drive-time shift. These were not sacrifices - I made decisions based on what was most important to me.
The reward for my decisions is greater, I believe, than any film I might have made, or book that I might have written, or album that I might have released.
My children are my masterpieces.
They are bright and beautiful and loving. They're not perfect - they're still works in progress - but they are good. And even God herself, when She created the world, didn't claim much more than that.**
When I compare myself at seventeen to my son, he seems quite young. Much younger than I was at that age. I think my children have been blessed to be able BE KIDS for longer than seems the norm these days. And I'm grateful for that. I told The Boy that he might not appreciate that fact now - but later in life, he may better understand and appreciate it.
I wanted my son (and my daughter) to know all that. The Boy's graduation from high school is like a sign post on The Highway; my children's lives have moved into a new construction zone. Most (if not all) of the basic work is complete. The road has been paved, the cement is nearly dry. There may be occasional lane closures from time to time for repair - but my work on the project is all but over.
Oh, I may be able to offer a suggestion on where to place the street lights - or establishing the speed limit...if I'm asked. But I'll try not to feel badly if I'm not consulted. I know there will be times when my input will not be desired - or needed. If I've done my work well, they won't need me much anyway - and they'll know when they do - and they won't be afraid to ask.
Anyway, that's what I shared with The Boy on Friday. Where the road goes from here is mostly up to him. I told my son that I didn't think he ought to do (or not do) things in his life to make his parents proud of him. Making a parent proud seems to me to be an undue burden to place on a child. I told him he should find out what makes him happy, what will allow him to be self-sufficient, how he can be a responsible member of the community in which he lives - and do those things.
That would be more than enough, I think, to make any parent proud. Don't you?
* I think this is a term commonly used by people who create collections of songs by various artists for their own listening pleasure (Think Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets or John Cusack in High Fidelity). But it's not a term I normally use. I just call them "collections".
** Genesis 1:31
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