My high school AP English teacher, easily the most influential instructor I’ve had in my life, recently passed away. Her class was always about more than analyzing literature — it was a year spent broadening my worldview and truly developing a personal philosophy (you know, the sort of “indoctrination” right-wing screwballs are always harping about). I know I speak for all of her former students when I say that her class was one of the formative experiences of my life.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve felt compelled to revisit some of the more impactful works we read that year (over TWENTY YEARS ago…), especially The Little Prince and Fromm’s The Art of Loving, perhaps the two best windows into Ms. Shuford’s worldview. I’ve been meaning to go back to the latter for a while, given just how much time has passed and how much I’ve grown. So far, I’m finding that many of the lessons of that book still resonate with me now as they did then, but there are certainly parts that land differently now that I actually have a child. For instance, I ran across this passage today:
Father’s love should be guided by principles and expectations; it should be patient and tolerant, rather than threatening and authoritarian. It should give the growing child an increasing sense of competence and eventually permit him to become his own authority and to dispense with that of father.Erich Fromm
I like to believe that I’ve intuitively started down the ideal path, but I have to admit that I struggle at times to ensure that my reactions to Miles’s misbehaviors (perceived or true) are not stemming from my frustration and subsequently manifesting themselves in the “authoritarian” sense — that is, “My will is greater than yours and you will comply.” I try to treat every interaction I have with Miles as a teachable moment, even when he’s being thoroughly unreasonable (which, at three years old, is most of the time). Patience and tolerance can absolutely be difficult at times, particularly when I feel that Miles needs to comply (eating dinner, taking a bath, getting out the door in the morning…). But I’m aware of my personal challenges and I have a desire to improve myself, and that’s the best way to approach anything.
While the catalyzing factor is unfortunate, I’m glad to be revisiting this book at this stage of my life when (by most accounts anyway) parenthood is particularly challenging. I hope that by continually working on myself, Miles benefits from the by-products. He has a lot to learn from me, and I can’t give him anything less than my best!