I have always loved the principle of “Parkinson’s Law” – that the time it takes to accomplish a task will expand to fit the time you have to accomplish the task. Well, I have exactly 52 minutes before a meeting with a client (yes, I am still practicing law, just not commercial litigation), and I am going to hammer this blog post out before I leave.
A couple of weeks ago, a camp instructor/school teacher named Jack, a man I first met 25 years ago at summer camps and with whom I have since become friends, invited me to talk to a class of his students in Lake of Two Mountains high-school. Jack and I go back 25 years, to a time when I was, what most would call, a “sh*t disturber”. To a time when I was a kid with too much energy, too much time on my hands, and no constructive outlet. The story of my first summer meeting Jack is a good one, and the subject of my vlog of the visit to the school.
Walking through the hallways of school, looking at all the kids to whom I think I can still relate, made me fully appreciate what a peculiar crossroads of my life I am at. It often happens that I am in the park talking to kids and I totally forget that to them, I am an old man. In my head, I’m still that sh*t disturbing, hyperactive teenager. I still have my wild hair of youth. I still do stupid things. I don’t feel like an adult. In fact, I never feel like an adult. Even when playing the role of an adult, I feel like a kid impersonating an adult. I remember what it was like to be a kid. I know what it is like to be an adult. And I can foresee what it’s like to be my parents’ age.
And in that way, it’s kind of like I am living three ages at once. I’m barely 20 years older than these kids, which is nothing. And I’m barely 20 years younger than “really old people”, which is also nothing. I can have a political discussion with adults the same way I can have a social media discussion with the younger generations. I like this crossroads. I don’t want to leave this crossroads.
Communication goes wrong when people are speaking past each other, over each other, or through each other. Communication goes wrong when people get the impression they are not being heard, when they feel that they are being talked down to or trying to be influenced. It’s the fundamental reason why communication between kids and parents is usually so difficult. The kid feels they are not being heard or that every conversation is a lecture / lesson. The parent thinks that the kid isn’t listening, or that the parent’s obligation is always to teach. Walking through the school with Jack, feeling more like a student than an adult, I appreciate that this is the same dynamic that teachers often have with their students.
In parenting, as I imagine in teaching, the true bonding relationship comes when, above and beyond the underlying parent/kid, teacher/student relationship, there is a purely human connection. I have had a few moments of clarity in my life. Too few, but a few nonetheless. One of them was when I was with my kid, and for a brief moment I just totally forgot that she was my kid. For a moment, it was like she was just a friend, with absolutely no pre-existing relationship with me. For that moment, I wasn’t her father and she wasn’t my kid. We were just two friends fishing. It was beautiful.
I was grateful for the invitation to meet and speak with these kids (and have since returned and will continue to go back to the extent that my schedule allows for it). It’s a unique crossroads, to be living as an adult with all the memories of what it’s like to be young. And to be talking and relating to these students as an outsider with absolutely no prior baggage, no obligations, no agenda.
I don’t want to forget what it’s like to see the world the way these student see the world. So I’ll try to hold on to that for as long as possible. And in the meantime, I’ll keep on being the responsible adult child who loves halloween more than any other holiday.
This blog has taken on Abe-Simpson-level ramblings, and I forgot where I was going. But my time is up, and I’ve got to go pretend to be an adult.