By Jim Selman | Bio
I went to the Broadway musical Springtime Awakening this evening. The last musical I cried in before tonight was Les Miserables. Springtime Awakening is an exceptionally intense, well produced and acted story about youth coming of age in Germany at some time in what would seem to be the early or mid-1900s. It is a story that has plenty of parallels today, including confronting hormone-driven questions about our sexuality, about friendship, teen suicide, parental sex abuse, back ally abortions and somehow dealing with the wounds of growing up.
But it is also about the failure to connect and communicate with parents and older people in general. It is about the isolated search for answers in a culture built on “Do as I say”, “Grown-ups know the truth” and “Learn to follow rules and not ask questions.” Parents and educators alike are portrayed as ‘roles’ that don’t listen, seemingly don’t care, and, at the end, are more concerned with their own image than the well-being of their children and charges.
The play was very effective in showing the price we all pay when we don’t listen to those who are younger than we are. We need to not just ‘understand’ the reality of our children, but we also somehow have to have empathy and learn to ‘see the world’ through their eyes. We need to learn as much as we have to teach. Our future depends upon it.
I am doing an inventory of all the younger people in my life and asking these questions:
- Do I have a genuine relationship with this person? Do I want to?
- Am I ‘myself’ when I am with this person? Do I feel safe to express myself without holding anything back?
- Does this person feel safe with me? Do they share their real thoughts and feelings about the important subjects in life?
- Do we appreciate each other and value our time together?
If I get some negatives, I am intending to apologize to the person and begin to pay more attention to the relationship. I’ll especially pay attention to my considerations and blind spots and work to correct my old ‘parental’ habits while doing my best to learn whatever it is I haven’t been listening to. I also want to ask them at some point how they would answer these questions in their relationship with me. I want to know what they want that I can offer.