Recently I heard a phrase about raising children. I remember it being in an ALIEN Audiobook Novella. I cannot say for sure. You might think what a strange place to learn about parenting. Yet, since millions of people learned about child rearing from Captain James T Kirk’s number 2! Spock.
Yes, I may have learned later in life, that Dr. Spock and Dr. Spock were two different people. One was a pointy-eared Vulcan whose full names was S’chn T’gai Spock. The other a politically controversial, pediatric psychoanalyst named Ben. Even armed with the truth, I like to believe we all have a little S’chn T’gai in each of us.
The phrase I heard, went something like this,
“Learn from your children, but do not teach them to be like you.”
I attempted to search for versions of it online but found no exact matches. Nothing made me feel the way that phrase had. Finally, something Google couldn’t recover. I am sure it was my fault. I’d hate to be accused of being a “Googlist.” Even saying that might upset the Twittersphere. But, saying that might make me a “Twitterist.” It is a never-ending pit of misunderstanding. If I was smart I would stop now. But, my momma ain’t raised me to be a quitter! Sorry.
I am sure the author took a turn of phrase they once heard, then bent it towards their purpose. Much like we all do with the information we hear. We filter it. Not always with malice. It is simply how we process the world. Seeing is the filtering of light, and hearing is the filtering of inaudible sound waves.
We assume we all agree on what blue looks like. However, we have no way of knowing of how we perceive it. When it comes to sound we can all agree that the song, “A Tooty Ta Ta” is evil. Rather than building my cas,e I suspect I have just deconstructed it. It’s best to get back on point. I read another story that supports this concept. Here is my version, as I remember it.
A cook was rubbing Calphalon cookware with vegetable oil after cleaning them. When asked why, he said, “an older cook taught him to always do so after cooking.” Then the older cook was questioned. He was in the middle of rubbing, vegetable oil on recently used stainless steel cookware. When asked why, he claimed that he had learned it from an older cook. Then the 3rd cook was questioned. He was in the middle of rubbing oil on his cast iron pans.
You can see how misunderstanding compounds over time. Well-meaning information passed down over time can become twisted. No longer relevant. Even worse it can become harmful as the reasoning gets lost over time.
To follow the ending of the story, you must know cast iron cookware requires seasoning. A process that protects the pan to create what is called an “easy-release finish.” The separating of food from the pan. Non-stick cookware does not need such treatment.
This story is tantamount to the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Imagine you are a childlike non-stick pan being slathered with olive oil by your cast iron parent. The action may not hurt you, but you know you don’t need it. Your parents are only doing what their parents did. So, they keep doing it. They become frustrated when you resist. Eventually, you come to resent them for forcing their ways on you.
Their loving behavior becomes a wedge instead of a bond. Rules, by definition or for the masses. We are individuals. We need edges, but we also need freedom. Working towards the more difficult Platinum Rule is worth investigating. “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” That seems much more aspirational and rewarding.
I like the pan metaphor. I believe Graham Nash did as well. His lyrics in “Teach Your Children” tell a sorrowed filled story of growing up and growing old. Separating from the pan, if you will. It is easy to get caught up in the beautiful harmonies and miss the underlying message in the song.
It starts with passing wisdom onto our children. By the end, the children are teaching the adults. Very Kung Fu, the teacher has become the master. If you fail to listen closely, you may miss the song is about love. The simultaneous struggles of growing up and growing old. A constant cycle. The song’s refrain is first presented to the children and then from the children back to the parents.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”
Each of us has personal hopes, dreams, and fears. How we handle each of these cannot necessarily be passed on. As the money people say, “Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Results.” Just because something worked for us, it does not mean it will be the right solution for our children. Even if we have the best of intentions, we must let our children follow their path. Our fears may be their greatest desire. Who are we to stand in their way?
I am not advocating harmful behavior. But, suppose you are afraid of travel. If you pass this fear down to your children, who dream of exploration, you may stifle their desires. Worse, you may build a moat between you both. Like the pan, wouldn’t it be nice to prepare each other for an “easy release?”
In reality, we are all someone’s child. No matter how saggy, pudgy, grey, hairless, or hair that is growing in all the wrong places, that we become. If we can see each other as children on a journey, then we can learn to appreciate the differences in one another. We can stop being Googlist and Twitterist and focus on being “Human-Beans.”
Some people prefer Burger King over McDonald’s, neither is right or wrong. Some people even like the new Taco Bell Nacho Fries. Huh? Who are we to judge. Perhaps we all would benefit from “teaching” less and “learning” more?
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