I’m back! Sorry about that. So where was I? Well, first I was directing a Cabaret at St. John’s University raising money to feed hungry families. It basically consumed a month of my life. Afterwards, I honestly didn’t have anything worth writing about. I wouldn’t waste your time with fluff. But here we are again, and I’m ready to rock. New Year, same me. Let’s do this thing.
I am a parent. I have said before, publicly, that the greatest responsibility of my life is the raising of my daughter. I can’t screw this one up. Part of that is instilling in her the proper values. It’s a tricky thing, though, because she must also have the capacity to make good decisions on her own. Of late, that tightrope seems precarious, indeed.
Julia is eight. Third grade. Thoughtful, clever, and way too smart for her own good. Sometimes she will ask me if Trump is a bad president. Or, she might simply state it as fact, without the question. When this happens, I hedge. I’ll say “that is something people need to decide for themselves” or “we can’t judge him properly until his term is over.” I do this because I feel it would do her a disservice to reinforce opinions about things that she is far too young to fully understand. I don’t know how she comes to these conclusions. She isn’t very forthcoming when asked. I suspect, as with many aspects of life, she is getting an education at school which has nothing to do with her teachers.
Let me be clear. I think Donald Trump is a terrible President, and an abhorrent human being. The man has zero ethical standard beyond his own self-interest. I can’t say that to my little girl. I can’t poison her perceptions with my own jaded views. But is that also doing her a disservice?
Racism and prejudice are learned behaviors. I want her to have as much of a clean slate as possible. (Except for sports. She will know that we hate the Yankees and the Phillies, as should all right-thinking Americans.) The real world is too important and complicated to risk tainting how it is perceived. Every parent wants to pass on their values to the child. But what about the parents for whom racism and prejudice are their values? The world is a complex place, and blinding my daughter with sunshine and happiness is almost as bad.
I wonder if Jesus worried about this stuff. Though He was the Son, He assumed the role of parent and teacher to His disciples. He was a great communicator, so I imagine he knew how to walk that line. Being God probably didn’t hurt. (Until the whole crucifixion thing.)
The Jesus thing is actually pretty funny to me. Specifically the allegiance that so many on the far right profess to Christianity. Jesus was a liberal anti-establishment hippie. If He came today, He would be lambasted by a good percentage of the people who claim to follow His teachings.
I never thought that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young would make me cry. Yet, here I am, thirty-eight years old, and every time I hear Teach Your Children, it brings me to the verge of tears. Part of the counterpoint in the middle goes thusly: “Teach your children what you believe in. Make a world that we can live in.” I feel that weight every time I really listen.
I’m not there yet, but someday I will have to let go of my daughter and trust that I have done my job. Maybe the hardest thing will be accepting that she may not embrace everything I have taught her. There is weird sort of irony in the idea that to fully succeed as a parent, I will have to prepare her to ignore me eventually. (Not that she doesn’t get plenty of practice now.) She must be able to reach her own conclusions. I can only light the path. I can’t make her walk it.
People complain about the awful things that God and Jesus allow to happen to them. But a good parent lets you live your life, for good or for ill. So I say to you this: The next time you are in trouble, lean on the lessons that your parents have given you. Use the ones that make sense. Do not curse heaven, but look to it as your guidepost. Thank the ones who have gotten you here, be they divine or only human. And know they love you.
I’ll talk to you next month.