My daughter's quest to rid the world of 'fire-breathing dragons'

She's off fighting for the causes she believes in and putting her body and heart where her mouth is.She graduated from college, demonstrated in Seattle at the world trade talks, and works for VISTA in Albuquerque, N.M., with a nonprofit group called AccĂ­on, which helps the disenfranchised get small, low-interest loans for their businesses.

No, I'm not talking about an "idealistic" liberal or "compassionate" conservative, I'm speaking of my cantankerous 21-year-old daughter, Darci.

Before, during, and after our most recent holiday gathering, Darci had several heated debates with various family members, including myself, about politics, business, and world trade.

Watching her adamantly and forcefully present her case gave me pause and a moment of quiet bemusement.I thought about the infamous boomerang.Everything I'd thrown out in my younger days was being regurgitated back in my direction.It was like looking in a mirror at myself 30 years ago, when I, too, felt the world was falling apart, and only radical and instant change could save it.

I agree with a lot of Darci's ideas and beliefs, but not always with how to achieve them.She wants to rid the world of fire-breathing dragons, and she wants it now!She believes so strongly in her views that there is little room for disagreement or looking at things from another perspective, although I've noticed lately that she has gotten better at discussing issues without insinuating that everyone who disagrees with her "doesn't understand" or is somehow stupid.

At one point, she said, "Maybe when I'm older and have kids, I'll feel differently."

Is it simply age and responsibilities that change a person, or could it also, hopefully, be a combination of increased understanding and deeper insight into life's realities and an acceptance of the limits of what we can and cannot do to make the world a better place to live?

Or, could it be that I'm not willing to risk as much as I did in the past and have become complacent?Have I become too conservative and set in my ways, or does she need to grow up and look at things differently?

I've worked hard at a job that matches my convictions and beliefs, and am living a life that is congruent with my perception of what is needed environmentally and socially. My actions, for the most part, match my rhetoric.I pick my battles instead of trying to fight them all in one fell swoop.

But, is that enough?

I believe so.Darci would probably disagree.Whatever I did or didn't do wouldn't be good enough in her idealistic eyes.

I wonder if she feels the same and thinks that whatever she does is never going to be "good enough" either?She would be right, of course.It can never be good enough to match her image of "how things should be," but it will always be good enough to make me proud of who she is and who she's becoming.

Maybe it takes her eyes of determination, questioning, and insistence to keep me looking in the mirror to see if mine are still open.

Gabriel Constans, a father of five, lives in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting experiences, send an e-mail to home@csps.com.

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