The Boy Goes Maverick

Dear Michael,

Let me come right out and say it: You’ve always kept to yourself.

Even as a little boy coming home from school, you never volunteered much of anything about what happened in class that day.

Along the same lines, you’ve shared very little, at least with me, about anything else personal, your friends and your ambitions, unless I’ve asked.

For a long time I found this tendency toward privacy and secretiveness more than a little frustrating. I’ve always believed that only if I know how and what you’re doing can I really be of any use to you. If you’re troubled about something but refuse to let me know, I’m pretty much handcuffed from doing anything about it. And so your long, frequent silences have puzzled me and left me feeling largely helpless.

But lately I’ve come to feel differently about your reluctance to let me in on your life, and even to understand and accept it.

For starters, this is how you’ve always acted, staying to yourself, keeping your own counsel, confiding little of any depth or intimacy about your education or your girlfriends, doing so no matter how I reacted, whether well or poorly. And so clearly this is your personality, this is how you’re always going to act, it comes naturally to you rather than by design, and no one, perhaps least of all me, is going to change it.

I’ve also come to recognize, at first only dimly but lately unmistakably, how much your guardedness, especially toward me, resembles mine toward certain others. You’ve held yourself back from me because of your concern about what I might say in exchange, questions I might ask, concerns I might raise. I do the same, even now, especially with anyone who has any power or authority over me, because I prize nothing quite so much as my independence.
So it goes, I suspect, with you. You, too, prize independence, and independence breeds a certain distrust, maybe even paranoia.

So I’m in no position to fault you for your reluctance to confide in me, because I’ve felt the same reluctance, whether toward certain family members or my employers.

Finally, I guess it all has much to do with fathers and sons, perhaps most particularly with fathers. We fathers often take a backseat to mothers when it comes to our children, and rightly so. You’re going to tell Mom stuff you might never tell me because you feel more comfortable with her and, yes, trust her more.

We fathers are often regarded as a sorry second option for such confidences. For all I know, we might even be seen as The Other Parent.

No matter. After having you as my son for almost 25 years now, almost half my life, I accept your wish for silence, for privacy, for independence, particularly in relation to me.

The fact is, I have no choice.

But if you know nothing else about me, know this. I’ll always be ready to lend an ear. You may dislike what I say, even disagree with it and resent it, but I’m always ready to listen.

P.S. – Two-part question of the day: Have your kids ever gone maverick? If so, what do you do?

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