Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It Takes Patience to be a Parent

We suspect that more than a few graduates -- from kindergarten through college -- received a copy of the 1990 book by Dr. Seuss (the late Theodor Seuss Geisel), Oh the Places You'll Go!, as a graduation gift. It's an inspiring rhyming promise of what lies ahead for a young person moving on in life, with the terrific Seuss illustrations that can't help but make you smile. And, of course, it's very silly while sending the sometimes serious message that life is not without its pitfalls. If you haven't gotten a copy as a gift or thumbed through it in a book store -- or online --  to mark a graduation or other milestone, it's worth doing.

We recently were reminded both of this book, and of the virtue of patience for parents, when we came across a copy of the book that we had bought not long after it was published and gave to a teenage boy we know to mark his 13th birthday. It was not the only gift he received, but it was the only one he complained about, noting how dumb it was to give a Dr. Seuss book to a teenager, and how it was even dumber that we inscribed the book with our heartfelt hopes for his future. Parents of teenagers know that they can sometimes do nothing right and wonder how long that state of affairs will last. We can't predict the timetable for every family, and we know that most teenagers gradually come to appreciate at least some aspects of their parents as they leave adolescence.

We had found the book while helping the young man who received it to move after completing graduate school. He picked it up and showed it to us and asked if we remembered giving it to him. "Of course," we replied. "And you weren't very happy about it."

He looked sheepish for just a fleeting moment, and then said, "Well, I guess I really am a grown-up. I found it while I was packing and re-read it, including the note you wrote in the beginning. It brought a tear to my eye. I guess I was too young to appreciate it, but I certainly do now."

Parenting takes patience.

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