Something odd is going on in San Francisco. The vast majority of upwardly mobile young parents seem to have given their sons the same name. It’s spooky.
With all the names available—from Adam, Bob and Charles to Xavier, Yoel and Zachary—almost every small boy answers to Buddy. I first thought parents were honoring old-time celebrities. There’s the drummer Buddy Rich. The guitarist/singer Buddy Guy. The rocker Buddy Holly. The comic Buddy Hackett. TV’s Buddy Ebsen (“Davy Crockett” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”) Maybe they remember the character Buddy Sorrell (Morey Amsterdam) on the old “Dick Van Dyke Show.” Or even the former big-league shortstop and manager, Bud Harrelson.
But I fear something darker is happening. These parents want to be their children’s friends.
The problem? A toddler can’t reach maturity without adhering to nature’s demanding physical, mental and emotional schedule. (Except for the kid on the E*Trade TV commercials.) So I suspect that these young dads and moms, choosing to be as much peer as parent, are clinging to their own childhoods.
Americans love youth and disdain “old age.” In the ‘60’s, Baby Boomers’ proclaimed, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Many hyped living fast and dying young (although not in Vietnam). Now, they’ve reached or are nearing eligibility for Medicare and Social Security. Yet they still think they’re relevant.
And they are! People have something to contribute at every age. Each stage of life brings new knowledge and perspective. Parenthood doesn’t disqualify someone from being in touch with all that’s right and good. And the age of grandparenthood provides additional perspective. We rightly take with a grain of salt the supposed innocence of children, the rebellious wisdom displayed by adolescents and the smug youthfulness of twenty-somethings clinging to high school or college memories. We know human nature for what it is. We know, too, that we never stop learning and growing—as long as we’re willing.
So my advice to upscale new parents is: Honor childhood, but be every bit the adult. Fulfill your role as protector, teacher and guide.
That’s not to say that parents can’t and shouldn’t have fun with their children and even rediscover the delights of their own childhood through them. But our children don’t need our friendship. They have their own friends. Teens in particular make this abundantly clear. What they need from us is role modeling along with the creation and honoring of positive family histories and relationships—a sense of emotional connection.
Given all the nicknames I had and still have for my three kids, Buddy has never been one. As for me, I’m Dad, never David. I’ve taken pride in that title and the responsibility it entails for going on thirty-seven years.
True, I won’t find the Fountain of Youth. Then again, I’m not looking. But a little bit of eternity lies within my grasp. Like my own parents, I believe that my willingness to be the adult in the room will enable me to live on in my children’s memories long after I’m gone.
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