The Truth, It’s Dizzying
July 8, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Relationships · Permalink
by Bethany Saltman
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I just finished reading Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open. I loved it because it is actually a fascinating memoir, and also because in the 80s I had a big crush on Agassi, so it was almost like reading about an ex-(fantasy) boyfriend. Growing up, though, I had no idea how tortured he was, or that he had dropped out of school in ninth grade, or that he, in his own words, “hated tennis.” I had no idea he was suffering so terribly, doing drugs, destroying himself, but looking back, that certainly explains why I found him so attractive.
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Another thing I had no idea about was the fact that Agassi was driven by a ruthless father who was determined to raise the world’s number one tennis player. It’s not like I had ever really considered Agassi’s childhood before, or pondered how such a talented tennis player comes into being, but there was something about the absolute power his father had over him that was, in fact, surprising. Comforting? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I am catching a parenting vibe these days that cautions us not to think that we are actually having an effect on our kids. Like, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out, but just remember that in the blink of an eye our sweet little “Look, Mommy, Buddhas are everywhere!” babes can turn into the neighborhood dealer, depressive, garden-variety A-hole, or much, much worse. And of course, ultimately, we have little or no control over what will happen to our children, or the kind of karma they come into this world carrying with them. And god help us all, it’s the most heartbreaking work in the world—to cultivate sincere intentions, make mistakes galore, and then not attach to any result. But sometimes I feel like we forget just how much influence we really do have on our kids. Or, more to the point, I deny how much influence I have over Azalea. And fancy this: in a good way.

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Here’s an example. One of the things that we have been wrestling with lately is kindergarten. For now I would like to set aside the complex and fraught socioeconomic/political details of public v. private school, and just say that the questions concerning Azalea’s education, and whether or not we would even entertain the idea of sending her to a private school, brought up a wave of such deep confusion in me it was actually stunning.

As I have mentioned here before, I grew up in a pretty hands-off house. Grammar school…please…I just walked there, suffered alone at my little table, then walked home. Middle school? Were there books in that building? In high school, I won my one award for anything in my whole life, ever, in Mr. Martel’s Biology class: Most Talking During Filmstrips. I wasn’t even planning on attending college until my even-then professorial friend, Stephen Jost, who spent senior year slumming it with me in the back of Mr. Norris’s English class, said, “B, you should go to Antioch.” Lucky for me, Antioch was a truly “self-selecting” institution, meaning—if you want to come here, and you are not currently in rehab or jail, welcome! After my first semester, which was a continuation of my hang out, smoke, read, and resist life, I plugged into something new and found myself wandering around the beautiful 1850s Ohio campus, holding my head, wondering, Woaaaa, what’s that strange sensation? And then it hit me: This must be what learning feels like. And what do you know? I kind of like it!

Where were my parents during all this?

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, May 26, 2010.

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Comments

  1. kcf
    July 8th, 2010 | 10:29 am

    I love Bethany’s voice.

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