Dear Old People in Families,
You’re not really old, I know that. When you look in the mirror you are surprised to see an aging face looking back at you while your insides feel no more than 25. I get that. I feel that way too, on my perch atop these past 40 years. I don’t know it all, but I know my bit of it.
What I want to talk to you about are the kids in your family. Not just the wee little ones, the infants, the toddlers, the kindergarteners, but the ones you call kids, the ones you watched grow up into tweens, teens, twenty-somethings, adults (do we have adults in our culture anymore or just a succession of adolescent years?). Those kids, those kids you think of when you say “are the kids coming to dinner?” You know what I mean. That’s who we’re talking about here.
For me when I think of the kids I think of all my baby cousins in their twenties, my brothers, my sisters, my nephews, all the people in the family who are younger than me. The thing about these kids is that they are amazing. They are bright and have beautiful smiles, they have a depth and breadth of life in their eyes, and experiences, both hard and soft, have molded and shaped them into the vibrant, strong, resilient, emotionfull, people that they are.
What I’m getting at is that you, older people in the family, have just one real responsibility to these kids: you have to make them feel loved. I know you love them, because you have big wide open hearts that are capable of so much love and compassion. Your whole job is to show it, to share it with these kids, these younger people. Your whole job is to make the kids feel love.
But what, you may ask, if they don’t live up to my expectations?
Pardon my profanity, but fuck that, fuck your expectations.
But what if they’re doing messed up stuff with their lives?
Let them know how special they are to you and how much you love them, instead of anything critical or judgemental. Say “you are so special to me and I love you” and if you are near: hug them, and if you are far: say it again and again until you can be sure they have heard you and Then Say It Again.
What if you think it doesn’t matter to the kids that you love them?
All that means is that someone fell down on the job with you, and I am so sorry for that. The old people in your family may have done you wrong, but don’t let that poison all the love you have for your group of kids. Your love matters, it matters so hard, have the confidence and the courage to express it.
What if, you may counter, they already know it?
To that I say they can know it more. They can know it over and over. They can know it until your love for them is coming out their ears and only then can you think “I’ve done my job, the kids know I love them, the kids know they are special to me.” And then say it again.
Hey kids in my family, if you’re out there, I just want you to know for real that your crazy sister, auntie, cousin, loves you more than the word can express. You are so very special to me.
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