Sometimes I forget that my son isn’t finished yet. He’s 16, he’s strong-willed and he doesn’t see the world quite the way I do. I understand that this comes with the territory but since my dad left well before my teenage years I feel like I’m leaping without a net on most days. Lacking a model upon which to base my “fathering” I tend, of course, to default to my own experience. And not to my 16 year old experience but to my 46 year old experience. This is entirely unfair, to both him and me.
I so want for him to care about the things I care about, to find importance in what I find important, to believe in, move towards and otherwise embrace ideas and purposes that weren’t even on my radar, much less in my daily practice until I as well until adulthood.
In my utter lack of realistic appreciation for his need to walk his path in his way, I find myself wanting these things desperately, frustratingly, achingly. Sometimes, I drive myself a little crazy with it. I get frustrated. I get ornery and “snipey” and jerky.
Pause here for long sigh of uncomfortable recognition.
There is an essential belief and practice in the coaching, therapy and other “helping” professions that we who are coaches and therapists are to meet our clients “where they are.” This is, of course, as opposed to where we want them to be or where, in our wise assessment, we believe they ought to be.
This is easier, much easier, said than done. I was recently expounding on this idea in a small group conversation about the necessity of leaders to tend to the building of strong connections and durable relationships. I help forth with the example that we might be enjoying our personal “summer” while a colleague or peer is experiencing a transitional “fall” or is even plunged into the depths of “winter.” That our job as leaders is to sharpen our lens to notice and discover where people are and what they need so that we can help them be as successful as possible from that place.
I was both convicted and convincing. For a little while, I even convinced myself.
And then I got home and watched as that logical insight gave way to the messy truth of my uncertain heart. I want so much for him to see what I see, know what I know, to believe in the depths of his heart what I believe in the depths of mine.
More important than that, and far more essential, is how I share what I see, know and believe so that he has a positive model of the value of seeing, knowing and believing. What he chooses to do with that will always be up to him and I have to make peace with that.
I have to learn to love what is unfinished in him, which means I must continue to learn to love what is unfinished in me.
A worthy goal. A difficult path.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well.