A couple of years ago, the adult ed hour at our parish was led by a phenomenal woman who works as a chaplain at a local private school. Her talk was about children and parents and relationships.
She said there are two types of parents -- tractor beam parents and lighthouse parents. Remember the scene in Star Wars when the Millennium Falcon gets caught in the Death Star's tractor beam and pulled into the landing bay? That's like a tractor beam parent.
They are intent on making the child into what they think the child should be and do and learn and say and befriend. They latch onto the child and draw that child into their ways, their beliefs. The children aren't allowed to fully become their own person.
Now imagine a lighthouse. What does a lighthouse do? It stands on a craggy outcropping shining its light out into the darkness. If a ship were to go toward the lighthouse, what would happen to the ship? It would be destroyed on the rocks. Ships see the light from the lighthouse and know that the light is leading them to safer waters, not drawing the ships toward danger.
Finola, who sat in on the discussion, claimed that she was the lighthouse to many of her friends. She thought that being a lighthouse is a very tough position to be in as a teen among peers. Perhaps she was born old, more mature.
Being a lighthouse parent is also a hard row to hoe. We've tried to be lighthouses for our children. Recently we've been shoved into the lighthouse role for Deirdre's friends. I see the tractor beam of the other parents. They want their children to be what they want the children to be. And the children rebel in various and sundry ways, often reaching out to us "the cool parents".
We are no less strict than other parents. We just know when to pick our battles and which battles are more important than others. Parenting is a difficult and sometimes thankless job. I am encouraged by the knowledge that my children's friends feel comfortable enough to seek refuge in the calmer water to which we can lead them.
With time, perhaps the tractor beam parents and their rebellious children will learn to live with each other's differences.
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