It’s not that you don’t think they’re great or talented. You’re a big fan. You always have been. You know they can do it. You just worry. You just want them to be safe. You just want them to find what is actually best for them.
That’s why you try to discourage them from chasing those crazy dreams. Of being a musician. Or an entrepreneur. Of dropping out of school. Of any one of those risky endeavors that we’ve been told for so long are unlikely to succeed, or alternatively is more likely to lead to painful failure.
“You’re a good writer,” Adam Hochschild’s father told him during his early days, “that last article was really very good. But there are some things I think you’d be still better at. And I’m concerned that you may be wasting your real talent by avoiding them.”
His father thought he was helping. He thought he was looking out for his son. He definitely wasn’t trying to be mean. Yet Hochschild would detail in his touching memoir, Half the Way Home (a must read for fathers), just how heavily these ‘kind’ words would fall on him. He already doubted himself enough. He was already questioning what his real talents were. What he needed in that moment was support…or just interest…or patience.
We talked recently about Joan Didion’s line about how hard it is for kids to write their own scripts as is. They don’t need the voice that weighs heaviest on them sowing confusion or doubt. They don’t need your concerns or your ‘What abouts…” They need you to hold space. They need you to lead with love. They need what Will Ferrell’s mother gave her son–permission to choose for himself
Maybe they can make it. Maybe they can’t. All we can say for certain is that they’ll never know for sure if we don’t let them figure it out for themselves and support them along the way.