This spring, Wendy & I both turn 45. That means that we’re already halfway through our 40’s! While it wasn’t God’s will for us to have children of our own, we have vicariously experienced certain aspects of parenthood from our relationships with many nieces, nephews, Wise Guys, Jugheads, and friends’ kids over the years. With my own homespun statistics, I deem that Wendy & I are now at about the average age of a Jughead parent. Frankly, it has surprised me over the last few years that any Jughead parents are actually younger than us; as a rookie Wise Guys manager in 1992, I was even younger than all my staff! But logically, if a typical couple in our metro area started having kids in their late 20’s, and we have a mix of birth orders among our 10-year Jughead age range, the average parent here is probably about 45.
Why does this matter? Well, from my perspective, it matters because although our programming, Juggle Jam traditions, juggling techniques, and events change relatively little year to year, I change. One of my rare colleagues (who has worked career-long with youth jugglers) is Art Thomas of St. Ignatius Circus Co. in Ohio. He commented to me at a recent festival: “When we started out coaching, we were like the cool older brother. Then, we became more of a father figure. Now, in my case, I’m a grandfather figure.” His insights are appreciated, as it reminds me that our strengths and weaknesses in relating to and leading the kids change over the years. Even my own favorite relational reality and analogy, being an uncle, changes as the kids and I age.
Just like all parents (and aunts & uncles) have to go through metamorphoses in learning to care for and mentor infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, elementary/middle/high schoolers, college-age, and adult children, I’m learning how to change while my students’ ages stay the same (while “juggling” each student’s individual changes, like a real parent). Meanwhile, if the Lord wills for Wendy and/or me to live long enough to be the age of an “average” grandparent, we hope to actively mentor, love, and be supplementary family figures to as many young(º) people as possible. May all parents, kin, and mentors out there strive to not just be average, but extraordinary in the lives of the youth under our influence. No matter what our age.