An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

In the interesting ways of life and parenting, I’ve learned that while I started my parenting career thinking that I was the teacher and my children my students, we were actually collaboratively learning how to live in this rapidly changing world. My children have been some of my best teachers.

In recent years, I’ve listened carefully to them because they understand their world, and the world that is coming, better than I do. I understand the world that used to be. I’m tuned in to enough of today’s world to get around in it, but my adult children know things that I need to learn from them.

I’ll never forget the day when I looked into my child’s face and saw that she wasn’t buying what I was selling just because I was her mother. The topic was really, really important to me; I assumed that the significance would be passed down from generation to generation.

It was a sobering moment for me to wake up to the fact that my children would take what was important to them from my world but not feel obligated to take what didn’t work, didn’t make sense or was, in fact, not all that important.

From these smart and capable young adults, I’ve learned that just because somebody spins a product, organization or individual with talking points, it doesn’t make those talking points true, believable, relevant or even factual. Looking and sounding sincere don’t equal sincerity. Just because a person wants you to believe a story doesn’t mean you are obliged to do so.

I’ve learned that just because the ones in charge issue proclamations, that doesn’t mean I have to believe those proclamations. From my children and from my own observations of the evolving world, I’ve learned that people will take facts and smudge them around until they look like they want them to.

When something isn’t going to go down easy, those same folks will bring in Big Names and Important People to shore up their decision, not because they believe what they are putting out, but because they want to control what others think and do.

For a while, I grieved the loss of innocence for my children and, I suppose, for myself. I yearned for the day when things were either/or and you could take a man or a woman at their word. I longed for the time when things were simpler, you know?

The more I thought about that time, the more I began to wonder just when that was. The more I reflected on when that time was that we could trust we were given facts and statistics devoid of error and manipulation, the more I realized that I couldn’t know that for sure. And my wishing it weren’t so doesn’t change it.

What I can know for sure is that it’s important that I come out of the fog of denial in every part of my life and that I attempt to use discernment and good judgment. It is important that I tell the truth to myself and others, and that I listen carefully to what is not said as much as what is said.

I keep learning from my children, but I’ll check them out, too, like they do me.

Jeanie Miley is an author, columnist and workshop and retreat leader from Houston. A version of this column appeared in the San Angelo Standard Times and is used by the permission of the author.

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