I’m not exactly sure when the transition happens, if it happens the same time for everyone, or if it even happens for everyone, but at some point in my life, I experienced that moment where my parents went from being complete idiots who had no concern for my well-being to incredibly brilliant individuals with lots of love in their hearts and wisdom in their heads. Well, it’s probably a big overstatement to actually think that I ever thought my parents were complete idiots, we just never had that contentious of a relationship.
I feel pretty blessed that I began to learn this lesson early on, maybe earlier than some people. I also feel blessed that my parents really were wise and loving, something that not everyone is able to say. I was blessed to have had a close relationship with my parents in their last years on earth. I didn’t know that they were their last years, but I am glad that I did things the way that I did.
It’s always much easier for me to take things from people who don’t come across as if they’re really full of wisdom. My mom was one of those. She never went beyond a high school education, although she wanted to. She never worked in corporate America. She simply assisted elementary school teachers as their aide for 25 years, and through her experience there as well as her own life experience, she gained a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.
She was primarily a good listener, which is important in my book. If you think you’ve got anything worthwhile to say to people, you better be a good listener. Not too many people will give you a second listen or give you the time of day if you come across as a used car salesman. That’s a very important lesson that I learned from my mom. And my dad always used to tell me that advice that isn’t asked for is advice that is ill-received. Those words so penetrated my brain that I adopted the practice of asking people before telling them what I thought, especially if it’s a potentially divisive or contentious issue.
Over the few years before my mom died, it was her and my wife that I would constantly go to for the wisdom that I was looking for. My wife, as different as she is from my mother, has many qualities that I rejoice she shared with my mother. It still goes back to that most attractive quality: the ability to listen.
My dad had some tendencies to share opinions and wisdom without prompting, but I attest that to the fact that he was a man and sometimes that gene seems to fall short in the male brain. But he was always willing to offer what he could and was probably way more helpful than he ever gave himself credit for. He certainly doled out his fair share of wisdom to me.
All of these things come to the forefront of my mind as I raise my own children. I hope and pray that one day, my children might be saying the same things about me that I am saying about my parents. I hope they don’t feel like I offer them advice that makes them resent me. I hope that one day, after those difficult years of me knowing nothing at all, that a light might go on in my children’s brains and they might think I know a little more than they think I know.
One day, I will make the same transition with my children that I made with my own parents, the transition from parent to friend. Maybe that day I will be wise in their eyes. There’s no use in worrying about it now though. For now, I’ve just got to figure out how to get through today without losing my mind. ‘Cause that’s just the stage of life we’re in right now.