I grew up in a very traditional family. My father was a veteran of WW II and was a blue collar worker. My mom, a new Christian, worked extra hours to put the four of us children through Christian schools. My father had high expectations of me, the only boy, but they were based on his own upbringing, and he was pretty hard on me. He was the type that never showed his emotion, and when I grew up sensitive and artistic, there was the inevitable clash. I never thought I could live up to his expectation. And through his comments, he let me know of his dissatisfaction with me.
As I grew up, I took my father’s comments as motivation to try harder, to prove myself, to accomplish more. Today, even after all these years, I seek the approval of a father who died more almost thirty years ago. And as I had my own family, I swore an oath that I would not be like my father. I wouldn’t hold my feelings in, but would share my affection with my children. I would encourage them as much as possible, and always try to be there for them. And for the most part, with some mistakes along the way, I was successful.
Now, many years later, I have two grown children. Both as successful in their own way. My son has two boys of his own. And I see his oldest son, a twelve year old, a spitting image of the sensitive, artistic, emotional person that I was. His mother and his grandmother see him as a child, and when he cries or fails or says he can’t do something, they are quick to rush in to tell him it’s all right and that they will take care of it.
But now I see a different view of my father. Because in a little more than a year, my grandson will be going to high school. And my freshman year of high school was very tough for me. The other boys, especially the seniors, were merciless to us freshmen. And my emotional self was like fresh meat to the sharks in the water.
So I am torn between sheltering my grandson as my wife and his mother is doing, and preparing him for the world, a merciless world that I know waits for teenage boys. This goes doubly for those who wear their emotions on their sleeve. My father was tough on me, but now I see that his toughness was there out of love. The inclination toward protection can go too far, I think, and sometimes tough love is what is needed. I love my grandson very much, and that’s why I am thinking I need to prepare him for what is coming.
It’s not an easy position to be in. But then, nobody said being a parent–or a grandparent–is easy.