I had just become a young man from being a young boy when I attempted to raise my own young boys. Much too young, I think back. I now have young grandsons. Growing, curious, earnest, and full of energy, they encourage the blowing of dust off my memory banks, looking for insight and smiles. It just wasn’t that long ago. The pictures are all in color. -the picture above is that of two of my four granddaughters. The other two are equally as radiant. They’re all brilliant.
All young boys become men by surviving their fathers’ lack of experience, being mindful of their mothers, and making mistakes. Obviously, the same can be said of young girls as they journey to womanhood. I attempted to raise them as well, with no prior experience. Fortunately, they all survived me.
“When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” C.S. Lewis
Making mistakes is critical to learning. It becomes the measuring stick between what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We learn what will hurt us and what will hurt others. As we progress, we come to understand that we have emotions, as do others. Those emotions are sometimes confusing and contradictory. It is possible to love someone but not like them. 'Like' can turn to hate because of a misunderstanding or having been called a cruel word. Being falsely accused can turn us angry and resentful and capable of retaliation- sometimes physical retaliation. Some young boys have fists that are quick to anger. The mouth, with its growing vocabulary of adjectives, is a potent weapon for others.
Like sponges, my grandchildren absorb everything. They see mother over the sink and tending to the wash or coming home from a 10 hour day, not yet able to appreciate the sacrifice it takes to keep them warm, fed, and healthy. They see the images of young men and women with red, black, and blond hair yelling obscenities at police officers in blue. They catch pieces of conversation of racism being something only white pigmented people capable of as if a rouge gene escaped. They check their skin color, having yet to notice the difference. They look to mom or dad for some insight- some hidden ‘adult’ logic that will explain all this.
Like yours, my grandchildren want to know the truth. They want to understand the natural world- the world that comes with tastes, smells, touch, color, and beauty. They also want to know what is real and trustworthy. They’ve run into kids that make things up- tell tall tales to buttress a shallow sense of worth or cover up some hole in their life. Then they’ll be exposed to adult notions that all ‘truth’ is subjective. That ‘truth’ is a construct of imagination. That much of life is make-believe and subject to the emotional whims of one’s very identity. Fully grown educated adults will try to fool my grandchildren by dressing up as a black person or claiming faux genetic roots for some professional or political advantage. With so many claiming ‘truth’ to be held in the first person, as in ‘my’ truth versus ‘your’ truth, the development of a cohesive set of principles to live by becomes nearly impossible. Hopefully, my grandchildren will not be seduced by this nihilistic view of humanity.
My grandchildren’s journey to maturity will have them wrestle with a growing repertoire of complex and sometimes negative emotions. Wrestle they must as some emotions must be fought into submission. It is hard to ignore the emotions that send mighty quivers to their sense of self. They’ll begin to notice others more capable of some things and others less. They’ll lose the foot race allowing envy to overcome the joy of just being able to run. The classmate in a wheelchair was able to cheer them all on. So we struggle between the envy of those more capable and compassion for those unable.
The opportunist will quickly move in to exploit the vulnerable- the young. They suggest human differences are simply a matter of lottery, giving little regard for discipline, diligence, and perseverance. That the difference between the haves and have nots is a simple expression of inequality where the ‘haves’ must become guilt-ridden while the ‘have nots’ remain hostage to self-pity. Perhaps the definition of equality is to be equally self-loathing and joyless.
Some schools appear willing, if not eager, to teach my grandchildren that the difference between boys and girls is a matter of societal expectations. That sex is simply a social construct and as fluid as a whim requiring the use of a dozen new pronouns, which must be pre-announced (and subject to change). That the desire for good grades utilizing a good work ethic is an expression of white supremacy, making them all racist. They’ll learn to hide their academic achievements as some will choose to diminish their accomplishments by claiming them the benefactor of something called white privilege.
When old enough for their very own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, my granddaughters will learn what is permissible to say and what is not. Just because a pop-tart song used the word doesn’t mean they can- that some words may be uttered by only a privileged few. Sing the lyrics on Twitter or Instagram, and the college that accepted your enrollment application will cancel you. They’ll learn what it feels like to apologize for mistakes made as a child. That’s what mobs do- they make no allowances for mistakes because they have no heart.
Kids, what you learned in Civics class was actually an explanation of when this country, years ago, used to believe in freedom of expression. That quaint idea has given way to a few large technology companies and their billionaire owners who decide who is free and who is not- what is hate and what is not- what is a good thought and what is not. They’re rooted on by leftist politicians and those who are naïve to history and don’t understand that they will eventually be in the cross-hairs of those insisting on an even purer dogma (learn about the French Revolution and the fascists Nazi’s and rise of Marxism, kids).
If college-bound, my granddaughters will be encouraged to be easily triggered by the full breadth of worldly ideas. And if offended with a bit of micro here and a bowl of macro there, then they have prepared a ‘safe’ room for them with warm kittens, soft pillows, and brochures suggesting various termination options if they find themselves with child.
As they continue to a more mature state, they’ll come to see the importance of reason and rationality. That it’s best that we moderate our emotional impulses and allow our internal dialogue to accept some argument- else you’ll end up like much of the world and instantly react to every outrage by calling for heads to roll before the facts are known. The heart and head must decide who will lead each battle. That processing information with a rational perspective allows them to avoid making the same mistake twice and to form a set of durable values.
I hope and pray my grandchildren grow up to be healthy physically, spiritually, and emotionally. The future will require they have thick tough skins and a robust sense of self-worth. That they carefully consider the principles they wish to deploy to guide their life. That they will always have the courage to choose truth over convenience, however politically incorrect, unlikeable, or unpopular it might seem. Maybe these words from C.S. Lewis will encourage my grandchildren to always plot their own course. “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”