My daughter graduated from high school about three weeks ago.
It is one of a thousand moments that you as a first time parent are not at all prepared for. It brings lots of pride, a measure of relief, but most of all overwhelming uncertainty, dread and questioning. She soon will be leaving for college. How will life be without her? Did we do enough to prepare her for life on her own?
The flashbacks are endless. The adorable baby, the cute toddler, headstrong, super sociable, smart…The pain- in- the- butt, never listening…or so it seemed. Still with that messy room, the boyfriend… Did we instill in her the values that we cherish and will carry her through life? Did she really get it?
Her answer as she wrote in her Father’s day card: “Dear Papi, thank you for giving me all of those wise and sometimes unwanted lectures. Little do you know, but they really stick with me. At the end of the day I’m really proud of you and the way you raised me…”
Sigh.., I guess I’ll have to take her word for it. Of course the more important question is if we modeled the values that I famously lectured about? While we do the best we can, we know that we never can live up to the best possible version of ourselves, and much less to the super- hero fantasy that lives in your ten year old’s mind. The day inevitably comes when you are painfully struck by the realization in her eyes that you are more akin to a limping mole in bright daylight, trying to find his way as best as he can through the unfamiliar territory of super- hero parenting.
How in fact, do we know that the values that we try to instill in our children are the ones that will help them find meaning and fulfill their life’s purpose? And what about the implicit value system behind this question itself; life has to have meaning and purpose? Who says? God? Me? You? The cultural soup we swim in? Or is it just the need of a hyper-active pre-frontal cortex to make- up stories to justify our urges, inclinations and tendencies? Or –somewhat less cynically- is it a way to make our short stay here palatable and allay our fears of the great unknown?
Just in case you’re curious. Some of the more important values we tried to instill in our daughter are (in no particular order): honesty, responsibility, caring for self and others, curiosity, empathy, spirituality, community, connectedness, kindness and tolerance.
It is my unbiased opinion 😉 that despite our failings as parents –and likely due to her innate temperament- many of these values are finding their expression in her interpersonal universe.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.