I came to the realization the other day that I hold my children to a higher standard than I do most adults. For illustration and comparison purposes, I’m going to compare how I think about my kids relative to two different kinds of adults: a celebrity and a professional acquaintance. I’m choosing those two because, with a little extrapolation, they encompass most of the extra-family relationships that I have. For context, I have two kids. If you add their ages together, the resulting person would not be able to rent a car.
Consider, for example, a “bad” habit. If a celebrity isn’t doing it in front of me, I probably forget it exists. If a person I know has a bad habit, I’m willing to accept it often because it was mostly likely an initial condition. Perhaps they had been a smoker for ten years before we met. Objectively, whether it was an initial condition doesn’t impact the merit of an activity, but it is easier to accept it if that person was always that way. The kids, on the other hand, must develop any habit they have in front of me. The initial conditions are my generalized hopes for them as functioning members of society. My dreams, which they had no say in, are their initial conditions.
Another example would be a person holding an indefensibly dumb opinion. With a celebrity, I have no venue to influence them, so there is no action to take and I must move on, just with a little less respect for them. With an acquaintance, it is a similar story. If I don’t think they will change their mind, I don’t argue. The result if that people say wrong and/or dumb things around me and I let them go. Going back to my first scenario, often views/values that contrast with my own are initial conditions with people. I know my kids though. I know they are smart. They don’t have to agree with me on everything, but it is part of my job to guide and influence their values. That means engaging more directly with any other person in my life including my partner.
On the one hand, this is necessary because I am so heavily invested, and I don’t want to be less invested in their success and their lives. On the other hand, they deserve grace and realistic expectations, which at least sometimes, they aren’t getting. They aren’t adults yet. They certainly aren’t good at being adults yet. I should at least meet them where they are at.