I never wanted to offer my children bromides (Follow your bliss.) or platitudes (Everything happens for a reason.) to make them simply feel better.
I wanted to make them think, so they could be better.
That's why when listening to their many complaints as young children (Nobody else has to do chores every day!), or even as teenagers (Nobody else has to be home so early!), I would listen and then acknowledge: “It's hard being you.”
Usually they would then restate their complaint, to leave no doubt about the degree of their suffering. I would note that as well: “It is hard being you.”
Should it go to a third round, “It really is hard being you” would usually bring them to the logical conclusion of that exchange: Now what? What am I going to do with this situation I find unbearable?
I came to view that scenario as a valuable learning experience – one of the myriad points in life that present a choice on how to proceed, the crux of that particular moment. It's easy to forget that children have those moments, too. So when it came time to write and title my memoir, It's Hard Being You: A Primer on Being Happy Anyway was the obvious choice.
My persistent fear is that the world is full of happy, uplifting advice that we use as a substitute for doing our own thinking. That scares me because critical thinking is by definition vital to a well-considered life and equally imperative to the making of a wise world.
When I was in college the renowned broadcaster Fred Friendly told my class of aspiring journalists: “My job is not to make up anybody's mind, but to make the agony of decision-making so intense that you can escape only by thinking.”
At the right age, and in the right circumstance, it works with children, too.
It's the best we can do – and also the least we can do – for the world: raise thoughtful, thinking humans.
Happy Mother's Day 2022.