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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Kitchen Knife of Truth

"Don't be mean," my daughter told me.

"Boyfriends should be a little scared of dads," I explain. "Besides, I wasn't mean last time. I was direct. There's a difference."

What I don't tell her are the things I was doing at her age. I know the shenanigans. Our only chance as parents, I tell my wife, is that our kids aren't half as dumb as I was and I turned out all right. For the most part.

Now that I'm older, I know better. I don't know everything--there's plenty of path ahead of me--but I know more. Problem is, I can't tell my kids what they should do. I sure as hell wouldn't have listened. To some extent, they'll have to figure things out.

A long-time friend of mine is a successful therapist. I once asked him how he helps people, I mean truly helps them. "You can't tell them what to do," he said. "You have to grow with them. And sometimes that takes years."

Sometimes that takes years.

When I was a kid, I didn't need someone to tell me what I was doing wrong or how to live my life, even if they were right. I stewed in bitterness and anger, ignored them to my own detriment to prove them wrong. And when things fell apart, as they inevitably did, the advice-givers can accurately say it.

I told you so.

Age has nothing to do with being a kid. A 50 year old "kid" can be a dangerous person--emotionally and physically. I asked my therapist-friend how he truly helps people because the answer relates to all my relationships: professional, casual and personal. In order to grow with them, I've got to work my own shit out. And that takes a lifetime.

So my daughter's boyfriend arrived to meet us. I didn't plan on being mean, just direct. However, I did grab a kitchen knife on my way to the front door and showed it to him. It was rash and a little funny, but somewhere behind the joke was a message.

That's my baby girl.

It shouldn't take him years to learn that lesson.


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