Nothing more accurately demonstrates how different I am from my son than a Federal election. While I definitely float on the left side of the pool, he is far more conservative than I. I would suggest that he floats on the far right side of the pool, but that would infuriate him and he would assert that he’s “a centrist”. In life, he very much is, a centrist. On issues of politics and social norms he is very reserved and admittedly judgmental.
It’s important to understand the history from whence he came. I was raised by a feminist, single mother. I am a feminist, single mother. I’ve had lots of opportunity to rage at injustice as I see it and witness change. Attending protests and rallies were not unusual for a weekend activity in my childhood. My kids know no such action. They know only what they’ve read, experienced, or seen on youtube. They are as yet unaware of the ever changing history they live. Having a mom who was part activist and part advocate had immeasurable impact on me. Not because I became my mother, or was influenced by my mother, but because my inherently Blue temperament was allowed to flourish in her presence. There were early days’ NDP gatherings happening in our living room, and a steady stream of people from all walks of life (including gay, trans, and multiethnic) wandering through, in a time when things weren’t nearly as evolved as they are now in terms of social tolerance and acceptance.
I have always known my son was more rigid than I in his thinking. It was evident early on. He is not a grey area dweller and I am. I support the decriminalization of marijuana and generally feel that Hemp as a whole plant should be embraced. Immediately. He, on the other hand, has learned in school that Marijuana can lead to your death and destroy your life and doesn’t separate those stories from the great stories that also exist. He is extremist in his thinking, and my willingness to dispute laws and charters is a little bit shocking to him. My “no-plans-in-the-moment” way often frustrates him. He will almost always side with the safe answer, the conservative one. He takes comfort in the stability of that. I tend to challenge and debate in the face of such ideologies. I am easily offended by it.
Oddly enough, we both fell in love with Jack Layton together. I saw in that experience that while he clings to particular ideas, he is open to hearing a new perspective. Not as open as I, but when the messages he’s hearing change, it does in fact change him. He is a thinker.
When I was a little girl, my mother’s world was my world. Her beliefs, my beliefs-mostly. I still believed I should be able to stay out much later than the streetlights! But we were fundamentally, ethically, similar. She instilled in me a right to challenge. A need to question authority when no one else will. She allowed me to advocate for myself as an adult would in matters of school and life. It is a fact I treasure. While I admittedly ran fast and free as a young woman with scant rules, I grew to respect the hard work that goes into life and maintaining a life for others. As a young person with freedom, I also had to save myself from my own foxholes. I figured it out.
My son often asks me for help with things he could easily have solved if it had occurred to him. Sometimes this triggers a low grumble from me. Sometimes it’s a much louder snarl. I catch myself doing it. I would’ve solved that problem in seconds at half his age. I had been forced to be resourceful. He has not. And because he has not, he has surpassed me in other areas that have flourished while not being consumed with solving the little things I’ve always prided myself on.
The election approaches. We both hope for our own versions of change, although he is fearful and I am not. I feel no sadness that we share such differing views. I don’t wish he was more like me at all. When the discussions get heated and I feel myself preparing to go into political battle with my 15 year old, I remind myself that I have achieved the one thing that was most important to me as a parent. The gift that was passed to me, from my mother. I hoped not for obedient children, but for critical thinkers. Sometimes a child is both, but most often parents program out any instincts to argue or dispute. We praise them for compliance from their earliest days. I needed to ensure my kids were comfortable telling me if an adult was inappropriate, ever-including myself. Not stuck in a cycle of guilt about telling on their elders. In school and life I have pushed self-advocacy as their greatest weapon. I have expected them to tell when something ‘just wasn’t right’, and they have.
In these moments of election discussion and debates about human rights and domestic terrorism, I hide a little lump in my throat. That my son knows who he is. That his stance is so certain. That he has thought his position through and come to me with a grown up assessment of why he thinks I’m wrong. That he is such a formidable opponent. That he is so very different from me, is a testament to him.
I’m so thankful for all that he teaches me. I look forward to arguing with him for many elections to come.