Sunday, April 18, 2010

Changing of the Guard

There’s a classic parent/child scenario that was captured in one of The Cosby Show episodes. It’s the scene where Theo and his father, Cliff (Bill Cosby), are playing one-on-one basketball. Cliff, a former basketball coach, is winded and tired. It’s obvious he senses change on the horizon. He does everything possible to prevent Theo from winning, including illegal blocks and loud distractions. But to Theo’s surprise, he wins, beating his dad for the first time. A new era has begun, to which later Cliff announces to his wife, “Claire, we’re old…”

My first born, Russell, turned 27 recently. And while the big 3 0 is a few years off, it was still a birthday that caused me pause. I’m amazed at how much the 7 month old, 7 year old and 17 year old I knew, is essentially the same guy at 27. But he’s also morphed into his own person in ways I could not have predicted. So there’s the continuing joy of getting to know the maturing man who shares my DNA.

Actually, there are a number of things we share besides DNA. Right now, for example, we’re both enthusiasts of the television program Lost. We talk every Thursday to share insights and theories. But an even greater passion we share is our love for writing.

I must admit, I take a little credit for Russell becoming the writer he is today. Writing has been in my blood since I was in grade school. And at just as young an age, Russell exhibited the same bug, which I happily nurtured.

In fact, my career as an educator began with me teaching creative writing to Russell’s fourth grade class. That was also the year he was first published in a book of poetry written by elementary school kids from around the country.

We went on to share three more years of creative writing bliss, with me as his teacher through his eighth grade year. He also held his own in a high school poetry group I led, even though he was four years their junior.

So it was no surprise when as a high school senior, Russell wrestled with the idea of pursuing a degree in English, Creative Writing or Journalism. He chose journalism, and has had a terrific writing career so far, including winning awards for articles he’s written. In recent years, he’s added screenwriting to his passion. And being a masterful storyteller, I have no doubt I'll be attending an opening night in Hollywood some day.

So by now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this trip down a mother’s memory lane; and what any of this has to do with Theo and Cliff Huxtable? Well, I’ll tell you.

I don’t remember the exact day or time, or even which work of Russell’s I was reading, but I do remember the instant I was struck with the realization that my son had passed me as writer.

Like Cliff, the wind was knocked out of me with a flood of emotions including pride, wonder and awe, and truth be told, even a momentary flash of regret. I too had earned money as a writer, selling articles, devotionals, and curriculum. But I saw in my son a single-minded dedication to the craft of writing that I admired and had abandoned long ago.

Of all the feelings that flooded me that day, pride and joy was the greatest. But there was another feeling, too: Inspiration.

“I want to write like you when I grow up,” I told him. To which he smiled faintly, and then deflected the compliment by saying something about the writer he still wanted to become.

Then it hit me. The apprentice had become the teacher.

For over 10 years I had fanned Russell’s writing gifts (and still give my 2 cents), but more so nowadays he's fanning mine. As I’ve returned to writing in the second half of my life, he’s one of my biggest advocates. He even has the nerve to challenge me with writing goals! But that’s okay.

Together we aspire and inspire.

I’ve accepted the changing of the guard. But unlike Cliff from The Cosby Show, I don’t feel old. In fact, reawakening one of my passions, and rolling up my sleeves to get back to a craft I love has been invigorating.

So, let me ask you. Is there a dream or passion that you need to shake from slumber?

Look around. There may be a teacher (be they your senior, peer, junior or even your offspring) standing by with just the right inspiration and support to get you on track.

Or perhaps the flip side is true. Is there someone needing your inspiration, expertise and support to pursue their dream?

Think about it. Now just may be the time for you to aspire and inspire!

Do not neglect your gift. . . (1 Timothy 4:14)


  1. This was a wonderful article. I also have a son who loves to write and read like his mother. There is an additional blessing in this; it is that four of my grandchildren love to read and write. They have earned journalism awards at their respect schools every year since they started elementary school. An old saying goes, "The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree." I can see my love for writing and reading, which I got from my father, is still alive and well in two the generations beyond me.

  2. You are so right! I can go in the other direction to my father, as well. It is a special joy and family bond to see a passion and gift passed down from generation to generation. What a blessing!