Whenever I asked Father Dan for advice, I’d feel some sympathy for Jesus’s disciples, because I usually had no idea what he was talking about until much later.
Once, many years ago, I sought his advice about my high-school-aged daughter, who was doing something I thought dangerous. I wanted to know how to stop her. Instead of answering my question, Father Dan started talking about me. He said my kids’ growing up was unsettling but could really be an exciting change in my life. I thought he must not have heard my actual question.
So I repeated it, this time emphasizing my child, and in response he began laughing about some of his own kids’ misadventures. That’s not reassuring, I thought. That’s exactly what I want to avoid.
I asked a third time (like the boneheaded disciples), and at last he offered some concrete suggestions. I could ask my daughter why she was doing what she was doing, which, to be honest, I had never thought of. I could also share my worries with her as I had just done with him. He quickly returned to talking about the empty nest and feeling bereft and dealing with changes in your life.
I left the rectory more confused than when I went in. Where was my foolproof solution? I thought, “Oh, well. Father Dan’s not perfect. He must not have understood what I needed.”
Only after days and weeks of pondering did I finally begin to understand. He was saying what he consistently said—that we can’t change other people. We lose control, eventually, even of our children, and we have to accept their choices. This is part of their growing up and our growing older. What I could address and needed to address was my own confusion and fear. My daughter wasn’t in the rectory seeking his advice, so instead he gently counseled the person sitting front of him, who had a few blind spots.