allowing you to walk your own path

Like so many of us, I’m finding this strange, unusual, unnerving time to be disorienting and also deeply introspective.  I think this is week 8, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the past and the future, as well as paying attention to the present in a new way.  I suspect we’re all thinking about changes we want to keep with us once the world “goes back to normal,” even as we suspect that it’s going to be a fundamentally changed normal.

I feel acutely aware of my parents these days, of the ways in which their example and inheritance shaped and formed me.  I feel my mother in my hands in the kitchen, and feel grateful for her ease and comfort around cooking that I know I inherited.  I sense my father in the ways I feel towards my children, in my fundamental belief that they are who they are and that many times the best thing I can do is get out of the way while staying nearby.

The other day, my business school classmate Chris Yeh and I interviewed our classmate Kwame Jackson for our podcast.  We ask everyone the same set of questions and since Chris and I developed them together it won’t surprise you that one thing we ask is about your favorite book(s).  Kwame cited a couple, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.  Since that day I’ve been thinking of a line from that book which I adore.  Way back when I wanted to publish a book about parenting tweens, this was my working epigraph.  It remains probably the best distillation of how I feel about parenting I’ve ever found:

My work is to give you what I know of my particular path while allowing you to walk your own.

Amen.  I’m not sure if these weeks have provided the distance that’s really required for truly deep observation.  So perhaps some of these reflections will change and mutate as time goes on.  But I am more and more conscious of my bias towards independence.  That’s been true of me since the beginning as a parent.  I remembered the story recently of holding 2 year old Whit on my lap waiting for him to get blood drawn.  Grace wasn’t with us, but the waiting room was crowded.  “Will this hurt?” Whit asked me in a tremulous voice.  I remember hesitating, holding his sturdy toddler self and wondering what to say.  I took a breath and said, “Yes, it will.  But it will be over.”  The parents in the waiting room drew audible breath and I felt like I’d done some abhorrent.  But I stand by my answer and it’s come to represent a lot of how I feel about parenting.

Hold them close.  Tell them the truth.   Share our own stories, but as just that – ours, not theirs.  Let them find their way.  Trust that they will.  I believe firmly that Generation Z (which Grace and Whit tell me they are) will save the world.  I really, truly do.  This is going to be make them resilient, not destroy them.

My work is to give you what I know of my particular path while allowing you to walk your own.

2 thoughts on “allowing you to walk your own path”

  1. Dear Lindsey, I still love to read everything you write. This one in particular resonated and I’m taking it with me, a small jewel in these crazy times. Thank you.

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