Igor is Now Grownup

Twenty-two years have passed since I recounted in this journal, the events and experience of my memorable trip together with my grandson Igor at the beach. ( “Igor, My Two-Year Old Grandson Takes Me For a Weekend at the Beach,” Psych. Times Aug. 1992) yet

What a short time!

Igor is now a young man- an aspiring scientist in biochemistry who is elegant, lithe, full of alacrity, social finesse and acumen. But more about that later. Myself, I am older now and a little bent as the inevitable, natural allotment of rocks fallen from heaven over the years have taken their toll.  Yet, we both are glad, wiser and still excited and ready to go.

Our journey has been “long and strange,” -to borrow the title of another travelogue of  Fernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer roaming the south of our country.  Ours was “full of adventures, full of wonders ” indeed! Like the return trip back to Ithaca, prompted in the famous  poem by K. Cavafis.

Circumstances and luck kept us together all these years – almost inseparable. And as it turned out, having  similar temperaments, we both loved to travel and learn.  And travel we did!  We shook hands with elephants, as it were in the Zuka reserve in the Zululand jungle of South Africa as the guests of couple of  enlightened, and prosperous entrepreneurs.  We stared at Thomson’s gazelles there and, elands and wildebeests and made faces at wily baboons while keeping  our distance from black rhinos, themselves full of massive solemnity.  And we marveled!

We listened in wonder to the love songs of whales in the Prince William Sound way up in Alaska and stared with merriment at the sea otters as they were hammering oysters on their belly while laying on their back on the calm sea. The landscape around  enormous, imposing  filling the sky.   A God’s land!  And then, we traveled the upper Amazon and caught small caymans and ate cooked piranhas!  And we danced together in the night with fellow humans, who were stark naked themselves just now, exiting their own stone age and we said “Hello” to enormous, chatty macaws while we were trying to absorb the immensity of the forbidding rain forest which felt as if it covered the entire earth!

And again stared at the implacable sun and endless number of statues frozen in time – a timeless diary of dynasties – in upper Egypt.

We roamed the mountains of Costa Rica listening to the hollow-ring monkeys there, ourselves laughing out loud full of mirth.

And while in Greece, we climbed and slept on top of Mount Ochi in Euboea next to a 3000-year-old, megalithic temple – the very place where Zeus spent his nuptial night with his wife Hera, long before their domestic troubles. and  we stared at the myriad of stars like quivering opals in the cloudless night and witnessed the “rosy fingered dawn” of Homer, the sea glimmering  far below and we proclaimed out loud, “Good morning God!” while staring out at the landscape of my ancient people, grateful for the moment.

But as the years were passing one by one and as Igor was learning from my mentoring as well from visiting and witnessing the places and people and the teaming life around us, and as he was developing in the process, a profound respect of the delicacy and interconnection of it all, in our fragile planet of ours and while our bonding became stronger; there was another journey we have had together even more wondrous.  The one I really want to report and share with my colleagues and friends now. The particular  journey Igor and I had had, was in the inner land: and what we  together  learned there and of ourselves in the passing years:

The first surprise; Igor did not change!

As I had reported then in the first narrative, Igor was from day one an inquisitive inner directed, restless,intense autonomous, pensive, contemplative and a little aloof, boy.  Well; he still is all that!  They all remained unaltered through the years. Of course and in addition, he is now dressed up – as it were – in the cultural cloth of the learned attitudes and Ethos; (these; the result of my mentoring as well from the learning and the give and take with his cousins, friends and roommates as well learning from i the zeitgeist he grew up in..but even these were finely tuned in their significance as recruited by his particular temperamental traits mentioned above. and  in addition to his un altered temperament ; He is also now informed ,civil ,and tactful with others as well with an acquired tenacity of purpose,and ambitions .His sense of his persona-hood and inner certainty along with a  capacity of intimacy all  still a work in progress being  the result of the quality of our relationship; a process which is made easier by the lucky happenstance of our similar temperaments.At the same time our relationship was often contentious and tense with endless arguments back and forth, as we both were occupying the same emotional space as it were ,as well in his efforts to safeguard his autonomy ,our mutual affection and similarities perhaps  were somewhat  suffocating for him as he was struggling to establish the boundaries of his own selfhood and identity , His Humanness is now  in the process of being completed . Never the less his temperament  is still unchanged and so is my own .Myself through all my 85 years !I remain  still  the same  as I was from day one ! OK ;  ,mellower and  wiser in  tolerating ambiguity , but still ;a inner directed, comfortable in my aloneness, contemplative inquisitive  autonomous person as I was back then in the mountains of Crete; chasing and studying butterflies (= variegated Lepidoptera as i learned their name letter  ) my temperament  as unaltered as E.O.Wilson’s , a contemporary of mine who is also a great scientist, and who by his own narrative is himself unchanged through the years ,  his initial and unaltered tenacity ,curiosity and genius in discerning patterns and relationships between living things as he roamed the planet -,  – made him a major contributor,among many other things,in clarifying the evolutionary history of the duality of our human nature .Chimera like as he aptly put it.Conflictual animals as we are ! .E..O.Wilson  besting  in his travels another great naturalist;  Alfred Wallace. -of Malay Archipelagos fame .

And then my friends colleagues and patients often ask me; What about parents’ attitude raising children?  What does it take? What did I learn about this matter all these years? How did I try to do it with Igor ?

Here My response :

Human beings are made to be tough and enduring. We came from generations of our kinds, who unfolded over thousands of years under very difficult circumstances. Our great-great-grandfathers, acting together, have  chased animals in the Savannah, and stared over mile high ice sheets, as they were moving North, killing Mammoths in the bleak landscape.  We are now their children’s children.  We are ourselves tough, enduring, ingenious.  We thrive in adversity and in being challenged.  We are also social.  We, cannot be understood solely as an individual,but at the same time in connection with interacting and dealing with other fellow humans.  We are best in being cooperative, contributing and being contributed, helping and respecting each other.  We are also competitive but we should learn early to obey the rules.  Fortunately children are born with all these traits.  As parents we need to bring these traits out and strengthen them in them.  We can do that with our own attitude, as mentors, as they are  growing up.  In addition and unfortunately we also each one of us humans, feel naturally like little emperors from day one, and  opportunistic on the side.  All children do. The sooner we, as parents address these attitudes that are naturally present  in our children and then help them also to get rid of them, the better.  The children later will to be better able to survive, face difficulties, contribute, get along with others and be also reasonably happy.  Treating them like being chinaware with endless worry in “not hurting their feelings ” as the current cultural attitude dictates -and which is being reflected in many professionals – is in fact counter productive and even outright harmful.  Many children end up feeling entitled un-contributing and unproductive. They may not have developed enduring persistence of effort.  Instead they feel perpetually frustrated  and even ready to get  in mischief.

Here are the four rules:

1. Structure (setting  limits and constraints.and sticking to them).

2. Consistency and sameness (avoid changing attitude).

3. Fairness for all children and their siblings.

4. Expectancy (as parents, expect the child to perform and feel challenged).

Of course, a little affection always helps but fortunately is almost always there (It is in our genes.)

So, remember, children are neither puppies nor breakable chinaware as I had witnessed Igor facing and handling catastrophes and deaths of family members with fortitude and inner wisdom.  Instead all children are tough and ready to be trained. They are given to us as in trust, we should help them to be prepared for a successful life .

The sooner they will  be made to understand, that life is not made for our convenience, the better.

Those are the rules, use them. They work .

They are the very ones which were used by the Pedagogues  (=guides /teachers/mentors  of children) in the 5th century BC in Athens Greece. These Pedagogues/mentors, knew how to produce scientists, poets, artists, philosophers, soldiers and responsive citizens who invented Democracy.

Igor now is on his way. Our wonderful journeys of learning and pondering together are almost over.  Now both grateful  for it all, myself can now only wish him well for the rest of his own adventure and perhaps with his own children and grandchildren.

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  • • Wilson, E.O. The Social Conquest of Earth, 2012, Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York, ISBN 978-0-87140-413-8

.Psychiatric Times  Aug . !992 “Igor my two year old grandson takes me to the beach for a week end ‘” Psych. Times aug. 1992.) ,

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