Of Parenting


Two weeks from today, my precious daughter gets married, so I have done a lot of thinking lately.
Over my 25 year career I have done many things, nearly all of them come back to parents and parenting. At the same time I have myself been traveling that long and very difficult path. Now both our kids are out of high school and one is beginning her new life with her own new family, I can say we have been successful.
No, neither of our kids are going to Harvard, or winning the Van Cliburn competition; but they are both reasonably well adjusted to their new world of young adulthood. Neither is in jail or an addict and both have a good relationship with mom and dad. What more can a person reasonably hope for?
There were indeed many days where I went to work, where either directly or indirectly I was teaching parenting to others, yet I would ask myself what right do I have to teach parenting when I am the worst parent in the world? There is no way as a parentto always know what the right thing to do is, and no way to find the energy and resources to do all the right things even when you know what they are. Nobody tells you that when you start the journey of parenthood.
Many a time I have sat across from a young woman, no older than my daughter, at wits end over her two or more children. The very fact I was talking to her meant something was very wrong and often she’d been “talked to” by professionals since before her first child was born about parenting. I nearly always opened with this:
“Parenting is hard. Parenting is hard for everyone. It is the hardest thing you will ever do in life. For me, parenting is harder than getting an education, harder than marriage harder than career. I say this even though I have had had every advantage possible to prepare me. Anyone who tells you that parenting is not hard ether has never been one or has completely forgotten what it was like to be a parent… or they are just lying. So, I know how overwhelmed you feel, it’s not just you, it’s all of us.”
For most of the clients for whom I worked, no one had ever told them that. They think they are total failures because it’s so hard. They think they somehow are so incompetent that they can’t do all these things that the professionals keep telling them to do. Their empowerment began when they realized that it is not their weakness that makes the job hard, but rather the universal enormity of the job of parenting.
This morning on NPR there was a piece on an upcoming documentary on Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and her son’s first murder victim. ( http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/15/172041275/the-27th-victim-nancy-lanza-is-subject-of-frontline-documentary) In it one man says she was to blame for her son’s actions, while others say she was a devoted mother. It made me think of the millions of decisions one must make rearing a child and one could make a case that every one of us parents are to blame for our kids failings. Not one of us make the right choice every time and none of us know which wrong decision will prove tragic. I don’t think I would want my life as a parent dissected and every one of my failings examined under a microscope for the world. Nor would, I expect, any honest parent.
Perhaps the most weighty thought I have in considering my daughter’s impending marriage, is that she will, far more than she realizes now, pass down what I did as a parent to her children one day (not for a few years we hope). Have I maximized my strengths and minimized my weaknesses enough to empower her to be a better parent than I was? I certainly hope so.
This blog is primarily about open marriage and positive sexual relationships (with a dose of classical liberal social justice thrown in). Our kids have grown up in a progressive sex positive home. My wife and I have lived out what I write here. While not in the full view of the kids, certainly the periphery of our lifestyle was visible to them as far back as their memories go. Now the ultimate measure of our success is not in our happiness, but in the happiness of our two kids, and their freedom to build their own social and sexual identities.

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