Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road, I decided to ask the Wizard of Oz where I belong in the world as I grow older. When I got to the Emerald City, there was a line to see the Wizard. A traffic light was waiting to see him, too. We started a conversation…
Hey Traffic Light, what brings you here to see the Wizard?
TRAFFIC LIGHT: I’m bored. When I turn green, cars go. When I turn red, cars stop. When I turn yellow, cars slow down. Day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month, year after year—
So you want to ask the Wizard for something new that will inspire you? A new purpose in life? A new reason for your existence?
TRAFFIC LIGHT: Exactly.
Actually, in some ways, I envy you.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: Why??
I have a son and a daughter who are young adults. When I talk to them, I feel like a traffic light, too. But for me, it doesn’t go so smoothly.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: How so?
I can never decide if it’s the right time to tell my kids to stop! Or go! Or when to warn them of upcoming danger without making them crazy!
TRAFFIC LIGHT: I’m not sure what you mean.
Well, if I think my son should follow a certain career path, I’ll say to him, “Go! Go for it!” But it doesn’t matter. He does what he wants…when he wants.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: What about your daughter?
If she’s doing a million things at the same time and loses her sense of self, I’ll say, “Stop! Stop! Put your feet on the ground!” But it doesn’t matter. She does what she wants anyway.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: I see…
And my yellow light doesn’t work so well either. If I try to warn my kids of upcoming potential danger, they’ll say, “Mom, please. You worry all the time.” Again, they do what they want.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: Even if they don’t do exactly what you ask, do you think on some level they hear you? Might you be some kind of underlying voice?
I’m not sure.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: Maybe you should be glad you raised your kids to be independent. You won’t be here forever. Be proud they want to live their own lives.
I just had no idea this part of parenting was going to be so excrutiatingly painful.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: Well, I had no idea being a traffic light was going to be so excrutiatingly boring.
I don’t see you that way. I see the world as a chaotic place right now. Sometimes I think there isn’t enough structure and order. You remind me there are rules to follow for good reasons. Imagine how many people would be hurt if you weren’t hanging out in the world.
TRAFFIC LIGHT: I suppose you’re right. I hadn’t thought of myself that way.
I think you belong in the world now more than ever!
TRAFFIC LIGHT: And I think you’re creating an underlying structure for your kids that they need now more than ever!
THE FOLLOW UP:
At that moment, the door to the Wizard’s chamber opened and the traffic light and I entered. The Wizard felt there was one thing missing in our lives: a directional signal. He immediately put one on the traffic light. Now the traffic light sends vehicles off in different directions where they can have new adventures. And me? Every time I think of that directional signal, I’m reminded my children are probably listening to me…in their own way.