Respecting Children

I had an extraordinary visit with my oldest daughter last week. She is an elementary school teacher in Houston, and an excellent one by all accounts. She and her husband have a lovely home and friends. Their lives are good. What made the visit special for me was that Cindy and I had one of those heart-to-heart talks that parents and children can have from time to time, and I realized how much there is for me to learn from her.

Perhaps this is just me, but I can see how easy it is to get so caught up in the routines of living that even loving family relationships can be taken for granted. In our conversation, we spoke of our feelings as she was growing up, mistakes, and a few regrets. We moved perhaps closer than we’ve ever been. I began to recognize this woman as a woman—separate from my ‘parental filters’ and expectations—and discovered, somewhat to my embarrassment, that (in some ways) I didn’t know her at all. This one conversation has opened up a future together that is rich with new appreciation for each other and sharing of our love in a deeper and much more conscious and authentic way.

I am profoundly grateful that she was willing to open up (it wasn’t easy for her) and, in doing so, give me the opportunity to do the same. I wonder how many times we go through the motions of familiar conversations with our children without getting to know them as individuals?

The word ‘respect’ comes to mind. I think of respect as meaning to ‘see through new eyes’ (as in ‘re-spectacles’). Until now, when I thought of my children, I was in touch with loving them, being interested and enjoying our time together. But respect was not a word I would have normally associated in thinking about my relationship with them. Now I most certainly do. I have a profound and growing respect for Cindy and—through our conversation—my other children and other young people.

I also can see today how important this is if we are to build powerful bridges between the generations and create vehicles for intergenerational dialogue. It seems a bit obvious to me now that, even though our culture expects the young to respect the old, there hasn’t been a lot of conversation about the old respecting the young. This is worth a lot more conversation and needs to become a foundational idea of this blog and the work we are doing to transform our culture of aging.

Thank you, Cindy.

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