It’s well documented throughout popular culture that, yes, growing up is hard to do. But, it’s rare that we discuss the challenge that is parenting the impressionable, baffling beings that are our offspring.
It is important to remember that parenting is not only a responsibility but a privilege. Our kids are not a vessel through which we can fix our mistakes. They can’t fulfill the dreams and aspirations we once had, nor can they go through life with the sole intention of making us proud of them. They have a life of their own to unravel and it is your role as the parent to guide, not dictate. You must instill values in your kids but, it is crucial that they find their own ideas. The moment they reach adulthood is when they begin doing what makes them proud, not what pleases us. Similarly, we know we are succeeding as a parent when we begin making choices that satisfy the needs of our child first, rather than appeasing our own compulsions and necessities.
At times, it can be tempting to assume that your child cannot understand “real problems”. How could they? You have bills to pay, children to feed, perhaps you have an ailing parent to take care of or debt hanging over your head. You have real problems, right? Sure. But for your toddler, screaming because they are hungry or clinging to your leg on the first day of school is just as “real” to them as you pulling your hair out over a missed credit card payment. The loss of your teenager’s high school sweetheart can feel equally as devastating to them as that of a divorced couple after twenty-five years of marriage. Everything is relative and it is impossible to measure your pain against others.
The happiness and well-being of your children is tied to your own. You mustn’t withhold your love as a punishment because when your affection is dangled in front of them like a carrot before a mule you are demonstrating that manipulation is an acceptable form of behavior. However, you can’t become so wrapped up in your child’s life that you develop a codependent relationship. It can be a struggle but there is a key to finding the balance: It is conscious choice. You choose to involved in their lives, choose to support them, and you choose to love them. This allows your relationship to flourish into an extension of the reality and ideologies that you live by.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You will argue with your children, they will defy you, and at times you will be exasperated. No one said parenting was easy or even enjoyable all of the time. But it is okay to be wrong, as long as you are trying and can admit to your mistakes. It’s okay to admit that perhaps your children are right and you’re wrong. They will respect you for having the strength to acknowledge your errors. Listen, really listen to your children and be truthful, not conveniently honest. Sometimes you will have to agree to disagree and that is okay.
Whenever I think of my two children, Leanne and Melissa, an incredible, ear-to-ear smile spreads across my face. There’s sadness at the same time. I smile at their brilliance, their beauty, their passion, even their plots and schemes; I’m sad because I know that in this world they will experience pain. I won’t always be there to protect them or help them heal. But I hope that my words and my love are so deeply ingrained in their hearts and minds that they recall both whenever they need them.
Be good to your children. It’s the best thing you can do for your family.