Not so long ago, before Sex and the City and Downtown Abbey, there was a show called Lamb Chop. Hosted by Sherry Lewis, I recall one particular episode in which Lewis and Lamb Chop talked about how adults can’t do everything children might think they can. Lewis used whistling as an example, and I have always remembered how she openly acknowledged her inability to do so. It was the first of many, many examples I would discover as a child in understanding, that contrary to a four year-old child’s belief, adults could not do everything. They were not deities or scoring a ten in each area of this game we call life.
Realizing my parent’s own limitations was, in a sense, a relief. No longer did I need to stress over learning how to make my bed perfectly like my mum, or drive a van without back windows like my dad. But I was also somewhat terrified at how capable the adults running my world were. Did the doctors, teachers, and politicians truly know what they were doing? Were they qualified to be performing the tasks I had previously thought they could do without fail?
The answer to these questions is, of course, yes and no. True, there are qualified adults out there who know their business. They are professional in their practice, cognizant of their limitations, and not afraid to seek additional resources when they are in doubt. I like these adults. I respect these adults. I strive to be one of these adults. There are also those adults who rely solely upon their doctorates, certifications, and schooling to run all aspects of their lives, and have no intent in acknowledging their shortcomings to risk a potential commission or even a date for Saturday night. I do not trust these adults, so I politely excuse myself of their services.
It’s not always easy, however, because sometimes these adults are not only professional acquaintances. They can be found within our friends and family, too. And it’s not always something as simple as not being able to whistle. I think about my own grandfather; a man I have not seen in eighteen years. A man who has not returned my phone calls in six years, and who did not attend the memorial service for his son (my dad), after he died three years ago. When I was little, I never understood why my grandfather would not reciprocate my attempts for us to get to know one another. But then I came to the realization that this would be the extent of my relationship with him. He was limited, and I had to accept that.
Sherry Lewis was smart to not advise me to hold on to the hope that you can change someone. We have the ability to encourage other’s personal growth, but I don’t expect to force Lewis to learn how to whistle if she doesn’t want to. All we can do is promote our own self-growth, and surround ourselves with those who will encourage us to do the footwork. And for those of us who can’t whistle, well, we always have the option to hum.