Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fatherly Advice

Paul here.

Sometimes I look at my children and I suddenly see them as adults.  It's an imperfect vision: adult G is still obsessed with aminals* in my imagination, and I have trouble picturing adult M with much hair.  But the degree to which both have grown and changed already sometimes strikes me and I think about how they're actual people who will grow up into actual grown ups and face ... the world. I don't have life figured out; not by a long shot.  And I don't know what it's like to be a girl, let alone a girl in the 21st century.  But there are things I hope my daughters can learn from me, beyond how to hold a spoon and which shoe goes on which foot. Advice is both a form of nostalgia, and a form of narcissism, but here I go anyway.  In no particular order, in what might become a recurring feature here but might not:

A Father's Advice to his Daughters:

1. Don't let anyone else tell you who you are allowed to be.  Not even me.  But don't buy into the idea of being true to yourself either.  There isn't a true self buried deep at your core.  You are made by your experiences, your community, your choices, your tastes. The best thing about this is that it never ends and you can decide what kind of person you want to be. Your everyday choices can slowly make you into that person. When I say "don't let anyone else tell you who you are allowed to be" I mean don't let anyone else decide for you who you want to turn yourself into.

2. A sister is a friend for life. Your grammy had (and probably still has) a cross-stitch with that on it in her house when I was growing up. It isn't limited to sisters.  The same idea goes for cousins, parents, aunts, uncles; it's true about brothers, but you don't have any. But I especially want to focus on sisters: on your relationship with each other. A sister is a friend for life doesn't mean that you will always like each other or that you don't have to be good to each other. It means that your family is with you forever.  If you make your sister into your friend, you will always have a friend.  And it means that even if you make your sister into a stranger or into an enemy you don't have to lose her forever.

3. Don't overwater your plants. You're more likely to drown them then to dry them out.  Don't stress out too much over them either. Plants want to live. Just let them. It took me so very long to figure this out.

4. Read. This advice shouldn't be surprising coming from me, but I really can't overstate it. Read history and read science, read the news and read theology, read the Bible, read comic books, read challenging modernist fiction and pulpy adventure stories. Many things you read will make you a happier person, and everything you read will make you a bigger person. Read.

5. You are not in charge of anyone else's feelings. Be kind and courteous, be loving and gracious; but do those things for your own sake.  Know that you can't make someone else happy, you can't make someone else better, and you can't make someone else love you.  Don't be kind to people so that they will be happy, be kind to them so that you will be. Love the people around you because love makes you better. But don't worry too much about what other people are feeling. That is up to them, in the end.

And finally: This isn't advice, but you have parents who despite their inevitable screw-ups, love you both so very very much. I hope you always know that.

*=not a typo, that's how she pronounces it

1 comment:

  1. Great post - and great advice that I could also give to my boys! Also, I love the new look on the blog. :)