Oh honey, do me the smallest favor and take a mental snapshot of this moment right now.
You can pull it out later, say, in thirty years or so, and remember when you first heard the words that I’m sure will one day be coming out of your mouth.
Only the tables will be turned, as they say. The shoes will be on the other feet. You’ll think “Hey, I know just who I sound like,” and you’ll realize that the person sitting across from you regards you as not just the dim-bulb-on-the-marquee kind of stupid, but dumber-than-a-sack-of-hammers stupid.
Yeah. Your dad and I know. No matter how little you want to hear it, we’ve been there. It’s that circle of life thing. Not the lions-in-a-Disney-jungle circle, it’s about adolescents and the people who love them, and the endless struggle for the right to make stupid choices that could have lifelong consequences.
And don’t think you won’t hear our words coming out of your mouth one day. You’ve been repeating me in particular ever since you could talk, and told your grandmother you didn’t want any damn carrots, thank you very much. Even though your first efforts at profanity were ones I blamed on your father, I knew they were my fault.
And that eye roll thing? Son, I may not have invented the eye roll, but I sure as hell perfected it. Still use it in fact. It conveys so much.
Maybe you’ve noticed it? That little dropped right eyelid with the raised left brow thing I have going? That’s World Cup eye rolling, sweetie. You throw one of your own my way, you need to know you’re up against someone with eons of practice. The caliber of this performance only comes with age and experience.
That little thing you do? Amateur hour. Puh-lease.
Don’t take this to mean I don’t respect where you’re coming from. I do. I distinctly remember feeling sure than anyone over twenty had to be inherently jealous of us. That their youth was gone. Sayonara. I was sure of it. WE were the up and comers, with the energy, the talent, the stamina, the collagen and small pores with which we’d surely do something remarkable.
It didn’t have to be today, that we did that thing so great we’d blow everyone away. So what if we didn’t make the most of every second? We had potential in spades. And time to spare and small pores to boot. So, boo-yah.
And, you know what? I do envy you, in a sense. You have yet to be slapped down by circumstances beyond your control. And by “circumstances,” I don’t mean the responsibility of homework every night, as well as the dinner dishes. I mean real crappy stuff, the likes of which none of us has ever imagined, that could be headed your way right now, God forbid.
What’s ahead of you may be far different than what’s come so far, because the world can be random and cruel. It’s a fact a few of your peers know already. We spare you what we can, but some of it leaks its way into our lives. Some you bring in here with you, on the backs of the friends you choose and the choices you make.
Don’t shy from the crappy stuff. Every one of life’s challenges is an opportunity for growth, for you to rack up your own Olympic eye rolling cred. Taking challenge with grace and humor is what makes you a better person. Looking forward to kicking ass on the next obstacle makes you exciting to be around. Making decisions based upon empathy and compassion will make you happy with yourself.
Remember that when you obsess over what you think others think of you. Their opinions shouldn’t matter like they do, and hopefully won’t matter a smidge in a few short years. Whether this obsession over what others think is replaced by another, or by your starting instead to care more about what you think of yourself, rests on the decisions you make right now, and that’s where I worry.
Will you be someone who makes the same mistakes over and again? Or someone who keeps learning? Will you tear yourself down or pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and face the next hurdle with shoulders back and chin up?
Right now, it could go either way.
But you are strong and smart and capable. Your future is spread out before you, a buffet of almost limitless possibility. I have faith, even through moments like these, you’re on the right course.
Seriously, though, keep practicing that eye roll. It’ll be useful long after today’s angst and my finger wagging are memories.
While you’re rolling your eyes, though, the favor of a small vote is appreciated. One click a day on the banner below.
Photo by: justin lincoln