To promote my new book, Love the Kid You Get. Get the Kid You Love, I was pleased to be interviewed by Roxy Vargas of "Six in the Mix." I was not nervous about being on television having participated in this medium once before--with Chuck Zinc or, "Skipper Chuck" as he was known in 1961 when precocious children, including my five-year-old unpublished self, appeared on his television show in the geological epoch known to loving parents everywhere as the "Pre-Barney" era. That a flesh and blood human, albeit one wearing a silly boating hat, has been replaced by an enormous purple dinosaur is the subject of another column. For now, let me repeat that I wasn't anticipatory or the least bit nervous about BEING ON LIVE TELEVISION IN FRONT OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A REHEARSAL until, on my way to the studio, thoughtfully located a scant 90-minute nerve wracking drive from my home, I noticed in the rear-view mirror, a zit on my nose.
And not just any zit, mind you. This was a zit of enormous proportions. This zit had its own gravitational field. Were Stephen Hawking to become aware of the existence of this zit, he would rethink his ideas about black holes being the most massive objects in the universe.
It turns out that the Great Wall of China is not, as is commonly believed, visible from space. But I believe orbiting Cosmonauts glancing down at our planet may be traumatized for years to come:
First Cosmonaut: "Did you see THAT?"
Second Cosmonaut: "Yes, Comrade! What a big zit!"
As I plodded along on I-95 (aka "The world longest parking lot") I frequently checked the rear view mirror to see if the cars behind me were moving at more than 10 miles per hour and to ask myself if I were truly a 58 year old man about to be interviewed on live television or, to the contrary, a high school student on the way to his first prom. With his face obscured by a zit the size of Jacksonville.
My monomaniacal nose notwithstanding, the interview went pretty well: I was able to condense three decades of thinking about, reading about, writing about, and working with adolescents and their families into a three-minute Q and A. Perhaps I left out a few of the finer details--theories of development, recent trends in college admissions, the future of therapeutic boarding schools, new research results in the study of addiction treatment, my next book. But you can't have everything. Roxy Vargas and the staff of Channel Six were polite and professional. When Roxy finished my interview, she immediately went on to the next studio to dialogue with the 20-member drum section of a high school marching band. I was too relieved and exhausted to notice whether or not any of the actual adolescents had zits of their own.
What is the take away for loving parents trying to connect with their kids? No, the lesson here is not, "You have a face for radio." The message is that what seemed so important at the time, very likely, wasn't.
Remember how concerned you were about potty training? Remember how all your friends with older children kept telling you that "she won't walk down the aisle in diapers"? Doesn't that seem like a long time ago now? Don't you wish you had been calmer throughout the whole process? Don't you agree that your anxiety only made things worse?
Remember how apprehensive you were when your daughter ended up in the regular math class rather than the class for advanced math students back in sixth grade? Would it even be possible to exaggerate how little difference that divergence of paths has made now that she is an adult? Wouldn't your life have been better if you had been less concerned about which math class your daughter took when she was 11?
Remember how connected you were about the choice of undergraduate institution? Looking back, now that your son is out of college, can you reasonably argue that this choice has turned out to be predictive of his current contentment? Now that your son lives in a different city, don't you wish that you and he had spend more time tossing a ball and less time worrying about which college would admit him?
What might have made a difference in your ultimate relationship with your child was your attitude toward the developmental milestones along the way. We have talked a lot in these columns about the importance of being there for your kids. I'd like to amend that suggestion to include "not being a hysterical piranha" at the same time.
Unless, of course, you're stuck on I-95 on your way to a live TV interview with a zit the size of the Sahara Desert on your nose. In which case screaming panic is not only allowed but encouraged.