In her first work called Adam Bede, Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) told us of someone who was like a rooster, who thought the sun always rose in the morning to hear him crow. He did it without any consideration that the sun was there long before he was, and would be there long after he was gone.
This is known as egocentrism, something that is very often seen in children and even some adults who fail to mature in a timely manner. Many of those adults will eventually pass through this stage of development. Those who do not outgrow this trait tend to transition into narcissism and they will seldom develop any real respect for others.
Egocentrism is often comprised of arrogance and selfishness, but other components may include anger and a sense of inadequacy. In other words, someone may try to compensate for deficits by making every issue about them and what they want. But more than anything it is a lack of maturity.
I have noticed a sharp increase of people who fail to outgrow it. I think a lot of it may generational. Those of us who have raised children may very well be to blame for some of it, but certainly not all of it.
Specifically, I mean there are some of my generation who tried to keep our kids from learning about disappointment, from feeling pain. In some sense, we thought parenting had advanced far enough that we could manage negative feelings with intellectual explanations and controlling the children's environments. Like Dr. Spock, we thought all of this could be done without spanking and without raising our voices. We thought we could all be Ward Cleaver.
We got them through some of it. But as they grew, it became more apparent that many of the kids were not well-equipped to deal with adversity. To put it more plainly, they had no problem solving skills.
Some have had a hard time dealing with life and it's curves at first, but through perseverance and patience they came to realize that some things were bigger than Mom and Dad; they soon learned they would need to gain control of their own lives, before they could learn how to seek a lasting inner peace and some sense of happiness. Others still expect their parents to solve their problems and get angry when they cannot or will not.
The more I look back and the longer I think about it, I now see the error of my ways. Although I am far from a perfect human being without any reproach, I now see that my parents may have had it right in their approach to child-rearing. My dad would have gone to jail had he lived in this day and age of parenting, he was not a "spare the rod" kind of guy.
But all of this is hindsight. We are now faced with a generation of egocentric adults who lack sufficient coping and problem-solving skills to navigate this thing we call life. And even when they do humble themselves to ask parents what they should do in a specific instance or certain scenario, they are not prepared to follow through with the advice because they think the parents are archaic, which translates to stupid.
So it all comes down to one thing and one thing only: I say, let them figure it out for themselves. "The earlier the better" is the preferred method. My kids are pretty much grown now and when they tell me something (about anything), as if to solicit some kind of response, I say what I think. When they shoot it down, I simply say okay, do what you want. I cannot tell you how many times, it has come back to haunt them that they didn't. Oh well, silly them.
But beyond all of this, I think the real message of this post can be found back in the opening stages, where the rooster thought the world revolved around him. We are here but for a short time on this earth and I would hate to miss the world because I was so self-absorbed with myself that I could not experience what others had to offer. Even at my age, I still learn much from others.
The world was here before me and will exist long after I am gone. It rotates in front of and revolves around the sun, not me.
My favorite part of life is giving back to those who have given so much to me. If they have left this life and are not here, I pay it forward. If all I ever thought about was myself, I would be a lonely man devoid of any companionship or friendship.
As it stands now, I am now the patriarch of the family. This is the scary part. Because now that I am, the weight of being right is squarely on my shoulders. Should my family ever need to solicit advice and then promptly disregard it, I am here for them.
And they do solicit. It's just that sometimes, it involves a piece of paper with Jackson's portrait on it.