Will Morrow (courtesy)

Will Morrow (courtesy)

It’s not always better to give

I was trying to come up with my own words of wisdom to share with my son

My son just graduated from college, and his commencement was great.

I mean, the ceremony was pretty good, and gathering with family came with all the usual joys and strains. My one regret is that I didn’t get one of those “proud dad” school sweatshirts. I saw one in the university bookstore, and my first thought was “that’s something old people wear.” And I can’t possibly be that old yet, can I?

Mostly, it was great because he seems happy, and as a parent, that’s what I will always wish for him.

Throughout the ceremony, speakers shared remarks similar to what you’ll hear at just about every graduation — praise for the graduates’ hard work, thoughts about new chapters and continuing journeys, and a challenge to seize the moment and strive for greatness on whatever path they’ve chosen.

I was trying to come up with my own words of wisdom to share with my son. I thought about the most memorable advice I have received over the years, and the best I could come up with was when my college track coach told me I needed to get my head out of my rear end.

So instead of advice for my son and all the graduates, I’m going to share some unsolicited advice for everyone else: The best time to give advice is to wait until someone asks for it.

In a perfect world, we’d all listen to our elders. We’d learn from their experience, and live a life of happiness and bliss.

But I’ll paraphrase a quote I’ve seen attributed to Mark Twain, Will Rogers, and others: Making good decisions comes from experience, and experience comes from making bad ones.

After all, how many of us, when told the stove is hot, still put our hand on it to find out for ourselves?

So, while it might not be the most memorable, waiting until your advice is requested is the most fulfilling.

It can be excruciatingly hard to wait to give advice until it’s actually been requested, to watch someone fumble around in the dark when you know where the light switch is.

I understand the irony of advising you to wait to be asked before offering your advice, and I’ve had the experience of just a few years of my kids mostly ignoring my suggestions. I was also more grateful to have my parents step back and say “nice job” about the person my son has grown into, and much less grateful for the unsolicited health and wellness suggestions. (Yes, I know I’m getting older. I don’t need them to remind me — I’m still thinking about getting one of those “proud dad” sweatshirts.)

Congratulations to all the graduates. I hope you are able to learn and grow from your successes as well as your mistakes. And I hope that someday, when you’ve burned your fingers on a hot stove a couple of times and could use a little advice, you’ll ask.

Until then, I’ll just keep it to myself.

Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at willmorrow2015@gmail.com.

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