Come Live It

Before I had children I thought my job would be to teach my boys how to do stuff. I’d teach them to run and shake hands and make jokes and generally get about on planet earth. I knew how to get about pretty well so I felt qualified. But then I had a boy who for many years seemed primarily interested in talking only to himself. It was not so easy to teach him how to do stuff because for the most part he wasn’t listening to anyone that wasn’t him. Still, I was his father and had to do something for him, only what?

While I was a father, I was also a writer. Margaret George said a writer must never be dull. True enough. As a reader I certainly wanted to be entertained. But all the books I loved the most shared one thing in common—they reminded me why life was worth living. I suppose I forget from time to time. I suppose I start telling myself a story of emptiness and loss and hypocrisy and injustice and I call this story I’m telling myself Life As It Really Is—and then I read someone else’s story and I think, “Oh, I like that story much better.” And so that is my job as a writer, tall as it may seem: to remind my readers, in any way I can imagine, that life is worth living.

And so there is my son who seemed to have decided right off that the world outside his imagination was a place where the only thing certain was confusion. Yes you can teach him to shake hands, and yes you can teach him to use an inside voice, and yes you can teach him to make eye contact during a conversation, and yes that’s all practical and useful—but in the end he alone must make the choice. In the end he alone must choose between his imaginary world and the world you are asking him to join.

And how can you do that unless you believe it is a world worth joining? How do you do that unless you believe life is worth living? That is my job as a parent above and beyond all lessons, to say, “Life is worth living. Come live it!” That is a lesson worth teaching. A lesson I will teach exactly as well as I believe it myself.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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