Issue #290 / June 2024

How can you move forward with joy when you outgrow your parents, the people who nurtured and loved you, but now feel almost offended by your growth, as if it’s an affront to them because you have different values? They are blinded by ignorance, and one of them revels in it. One is angered by those different from her, bitter at the world and its changing face, trying to drag you back, as if rage and resentment can ever win the day.

JASON, LONDON, UK

Dear Jason,

One of the enduring privileges of advanced parenthood is finally being able to abandon any attempt to live up to the impossible standards set by our children. Instead, we lean back and fall unapologetically into our obsolescence. We understand that we are what we are and hope our children grow into somewhat better versions of ourselves. We feel we have done our bit to improve the world and pray that our children will continue to do so. We also hope that we have raised our children to be strong enough to withstand the generational contempt that will almost certainly come their way when they, in turn, have their own children.

We old people are mostly content to see the world trip and falter toward a more tolerant, inclusive, and merciful version of itself. But we also want it to become less judgemental and sanctimonious, and we pray this is the case as we seek indications of a better world in the actions and opinions of our children. When one of my sons criticises me for holding a view that is a little out of order, or rather less progressive than they would like, I am, on some level, encouraged to see this as evidence that the world is moving in a more positive direction – even as I request they exercise some humility and stop being so self-righteous.

My advice to you, Jason, is to look at your parents with a little more understanding and compassion. Indeed, be joyful in the act! They are, after all, your parents. Try to see them for what they are, mirror images of your future self – lost in a strange and new world that has been constructed around them, just as some day you will be lost in the world that is, at this very moment, unfolding unfathomably around you. My suggestion is to give that terrible, hostile, ignorant, frightened, human mother of yours a hug. If it makes the act more palatable, remember that you are essentially hugging your future self, just as she hugs that which she once was. Once youve done that, give her another hug from me. It sounds like she needs it.

Love, Nick

 

Ask a Question