566. Suns or Moons?

Most parents work hard to help their children grow up right. There are all kinds of ideas about what “right” means, and parents, therefore, have all kinds of goals as they teach their children how to live. They often see their children as reflections of themselves, and they can be proud of their children or not so proud, depending on whether they like what those reflections look like.
We usually like to find out that our parents are proud of us. They taught us how to live, and if they’re proud of us, we’re likely to think that maybe we’re doing it right. But nobody wants to just be a reflection of somebody else. There are times when the last thing we want to hear is that we’re “just like” our parents. Not liking such a statement may or may not have anything to do with whether or not we consider our parents worthy of imitation. We want to be people in our own right, not mere reflections of other people.
I’ve always felt a little funny about saying to someone, “I’m proud of you.” I still say it; I know people tend to like hearing it. But if someone has done something I admire, doesn’t the statement “I’m proud of you” imply that I deserve some credit for what that person has done? Maybe I do deserve some credit; maybe the way I’ve related with this person has inspired him or her to do something I consider worthy of note. As parents and teachers, we hope that will happen. But maybe being proud of someone else is implying a little bit of ownership.
Let’s consider another possibility: what if a person we hope to have influenced does something we don’t like? Are we supposed to blame ourselves? If we take credit for the good stuff, shouldn’t we also take blame if there is some? If there’s a punishment, should we take part of it? Parents of young children certainly are held responsible for some things their children do. How and when, exactly, do parents stop getting blamed by others and by themselves for annoying things their children do? There are actually lots of people and events that contribute to making us who we are. Our parents play important roles. So do our teachers. And so do other people our parents and teachers may or may not know. And we play a pretty important role in making ourselves who we are. In a way, we’re group projects.
I sometimes focus on the effects my parents have had on me. Sometimes I hear pride in their voices as they talk about things I’ve written, said, or done. I have to admit that I like that. And my daughters often say and do things that make me proud of them. I guess I’ll let my parents take some credit for who I am, and maybe I’ll take some credit for who my daughters are.
But ultimately, the lion’s share of responsibility for who we are belongs to us. We’re not mere reflections of people who have influenced us.
We’re suns, not moons.

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