My youngest son is about to graduate high school. I am feeling a mix of emotions, as I am certain many others have felt and are feeling at this time. One of the more salient emotions for me is connected to a deep curiosity I have: did I teach him what he needs to know about what is important, as he takes his first steps out into the world, and begins to make some important life decisions?
Many memories come back to me as I reflect on the many experiences I have had with my son. One has to do with him wanting a motorized car when he was about three. Many neighbors had this toy car that you maneuvered around, and my son really wanted one. He had a tricycle that could be controlled either by the toddler, or by an adult when a long pole was added on the back of it. Not fancy enough; he wanted that motorized car.
Fast forward 10 years. My son is 13, and I overhear him talking on the phone to a friend. I do not remember the exact details, but I do remember him exaggerating the details related to a family event that made it more “acceptable” to his peers. He made the event sound fancier than it was. I spoke with him about this, and he was embarrassed by his actions. Was he embarrassed because he was caught, or because he was ashamed that the event was not as fancy as others might have been (mis)led to believe?
I have had numerous conversations with my both sons about how we live our lives, the choices we make, the things we buy and do not buy. My children have seen the way we live our lives, the decisions we make, the affiliations we have and do not have, the causes we support. They see us in comparison to others, and draw conclusions about what is and is not important. As my son takes his first steps out into the world, I am not sure what decisions he will make. My hope is that whatever he decides to do, his decisions will be informed by compassion, caring, and a genuine concern for all those who share the world with him. And that fancy will not matter too much.