Spending time with my teenage son is like déjà vu as I grow to recognize my younger self in him more and more each day. His awkward self-consciousness, the inward turning, less communicative stance, his attraction toward friends and away from family, and his idealism, all strike a familiar chord.
My son is me at that age – less messed up because he’s growing up without the chaos and dysfunction that I endured early and often. Yet the teen he’s becoming is very much a mirror of myself.
It gives me empathy and appreciation for him at this point is his life, even as I feel my buttons pushed by some of his unbecoming behavior. This recognition of myself in my son should help me to be less triggered, more tolerant; yet I do hope he passes through this period somehow swiftly and with relative ease.
I am also reminded of another mirror, the one that was so evident in the presence of my own father. How I channeled his voice and mannerisms, at the same time I resented and reviled him at various times. My goal has been to live my life differently, while accepting his legacy as one I can never completely escape.
As I think about it, I am recognizing and remembering both my father and my son, for how I am reflected in who they are, and how they show up in everything I am and all that I do.
The teenage me that I see when with my son is a reminder of the simple yet extremely challenging aspects of those years of my life. It’s my job to accept and support him the best I can, and offer guidance and set some boundaries to help my son navigate toward adulthood.
All the while I am also charting my own course through middle age, using the memories of my own, late father as a map for how to and not to live my life.
I am so grateful for these teachers, young and old, and the simple wisdom that I recognize, remember and continue to struggle to understand.
A version of this post first appeared on The Grateful Dad.
Photo credit: flickr.com/Daniel X. O’Neil