When my grandmother was in her early eighties, she reflected that she had been born in the days when people traveled by horse and buggy and had lived to see man travel in a spaceship to the moon. She said that it was about as much change as a person could accept in one lifetime. While I’m far from her age, I have lived long enough to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was alive before computers or Nintendos were invented! How could that be, they wonder? And they are probably thinking that I must be ancient in the same way I thought my grandmother was to have been born before cars were invented. No matter when we’re born or how modern we feel, there will always be generational differences that can’t be bridged. But these generational differences can be beneficial to all of us if we learn to respect our different points of view and our uncommon perspectives.
I’ve heard it told that there is an Inuit tribe that tattoos dark lines on their faces so that they look older than they are. This is to show their respect for the older members of their tribe. It’s sort of the opposite of having a face lift in our culture where we so highly value youth and looking younger than we are. The Chinese also value and respect their elders. They believe something called wisdom is bestowed to the older members of their families. And because they believe this, they value their elders and what they have to say and their contributions to their families.
Perhaps because we’re a fairly young country as countries go, we’ve come to be so enchanted with being young, in looking young. We’ve almost discounted the notion of wisdom and instead value anything that’s new. Maybe it’s our ever present optimistic spirit, our “can-do” attitude, or even our entertainment industry that makes us all so susceptible to chasing the fountain of youth. It certainly isn’t our children; they’re doing just the opposite. Take a look at the clothing industry for kids. Have you looked at the shoes made for seven year olds? They look to me like miniature adult shoes complete with little heels and in many colors. No, our kids are on the grow-up-quick path just as we’re on the stay-young-forever trip. And to my way of thinking, something is very wrong about both of these ventures.
Somewhere there’s got to be a perfect time, a perfect age, a perfect moment. Somehow, there’s got to be a time slot in our lives where we’re just the right age, even for a little while. Give us the peace of those moments, the moments where we can find contentment. Why in our culture does this seem to be so elusive? And what part are we playing, conscientiously or unconscientiously, to perpetuate these delusions? After all, we can’t really be any age other than the one we are. So why is it so hard for us to be our age? And why do we fear facing the age we are or the age we are becoming?
… to be continued
Be Your Age- part 2
I think the answers to these questions lie in acceptance. Isn’t that our real issue? For when we examine this concept, we find that we’re having trouble really accepting so many things, not just our age or our time of life. We’re taught as young children to only accept our very best efforts and our very best results. Scores of less than 100%, while they may still be an A, just aren’t our best. And most of the photos taken of us don’t really do us justice. How difficult it is to get a family photo where everyone looks as good as they are. None of us are paid as much in our jobs as we’re worth, nor are we really appreciated the way we should be for what we contribute. Our kids embarrass us when they misbehave and we feel like we’re not the parents we want to be. And if anyone starts criticizing us, well then our worst fears are realized because now someone is discovering that we’re not really perfect after all. And don’t look too closely at the way these pants fit because we’re not in as good a shape as we need to be. We’ve just got to find time to get to the gym! You’re getting the gist, aren’t you?
Contentment, where are you and how can we get to you? Well, first of all, get off the roller coaster, slow down, say “stop” or “no, I won’t.” It’s OK to be who you are. In fact, it’s great being who you are in the time you’re you. This is the moment, this is your moment, it’s the most wonderful moment, and no one and no idea should destroy the wonder of this moment. And while you’re at iT, take your children out of the rat race, too. Childhood is magical and fleeting and every child deserves as much of it as possible for a long as it lasts.
Each age, each stage makes its own contribution to our lives. But for us to really get it, we’ve got to accept each other and our children where we are. We’ve got to start valuing each person, each family member, each friend, each co-worker, each fellow classmate, each person whose life interacts with ours. We’ve got to learn to value our differences whether they come from our generational differences or our cultural differences or our ethnic differences. And most of all, for our children to be able to thrive on the world stage, we’ve got to teach them the wonder of diversity, the value of different points of view, the strength in receiving different perspectives, the richness of the ages of life.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher