The Sage on a Mountaintop (or Mentor) instructs us to breathe deeply, see with non-judgmental eyes, and guide our children to the realization of the very best versions of themselves. The Mentor archetype, so prevalent in the Western canon, began--like many good things--with the ancient Greeks.
When Odysseus shipped off for his epic journey, he left his son in the care of the elderly Mentor. And when grown-up Telemachus went in search of his father (to save him from all that globe-trotting, monster-fighting and nymph-imprisonment), Mentor accompanied him (except it's actually that wily goddess Ahtena, in yet another disguise).
The Mentor character—so familiar in so many coming-of-age stories—maintains an objective stance, laughs gently at the hero’s plight, and helps guide younger people to the actualization of their real and full selves.
Mentor teaches us to HONOR our progeny. We never know the mentor's personal agenda; mentor characters exist solely to lead the young hero to self-actualization.
Putting our own dreams and desires aside, when we are parents, is not so easy. Often our kids are good at things we did—better than we ever were. With hearts full of love, we afford them opportunities we did not have . . . and we tend to expect them to make good on our investments. Sometimes our kids wear OUR ideas about success or happiness like ill-fitting, itchy sweaters.
Mentor-as-role-model reminds us to step back, see our children for who THEY really are, and help them realize THEIR unique, singular, God-given gifts.
Here's the best news: much of this mentoring is NOT YOUR JOB! Developmentally, teenagers seek to differentiate themselves from their parents. They are programmed to reject our advice and rely on the opinions and guidance of others (especially peers). As you may be aware, teenagers value anyone--teachers, coaches, friends, pop stars, neighbors, street-preachers, derelicts--more than Dear Old Mom and Dad. Really. Anyone who isn't a parent has more cred with our kids than we have.
So put good mentors in their paths. Know the teachers who influence them; introduce them to music instructors or youth leaders or other adults you trust. If your teenager shows interest in a new passion--however odd it may seem--do some research. Encourage their fledging interests by putting them in touch with adults who can help them (and whom you know to be good people).
Above all, give thanks--in person, when we can--for the other mentors who help us raise our teenagers into responsible adulthood. When we are able, parents do best to act like mentors, as well. Ideally, we maintain an objective distance, a healthy sense of humor and a vault full of sound guidance. The truth, however, is that most often, adolescents take their cues and their advice from other people.
May all our teenagers--as they journey toward meeting the pure potential of their grown-up selves--find mentors who lead them well.