Our children sometimes forget about us.
When they get to a certain age, they go off to find their way in the world, and their parents (most often their father, who tends to be the more aloof of the two) become something of an afterthought.
I don’t mean this in a negative way. If you’ve done your job right, that afterthought will usually be a good one, a comforting one. But their lives are their own now and your part of it in the day-to-day scheme of things is less important than it once was.
And that’s as it should be.
If we’re good parents, we raise our children to be independent, but always knowing that they can call on us if they’re in trouble, or if they need advice or support. The job of a good parent is, I believe, to provide that support without judgment. Give them the advice they seek, yes, but do it without the color of “I know what’s best for you.”
Because you don’t. What’s “best” for any individual is something they have to figure out on their own. And that includes our children.
If you’re offering advice that they choose to ignore – despite the fact that it was given based on your experience and knowledge and understanding of the world – then you should accept that they’re old enough to make their own decisions and that this may mean making a number of mistakes as well.
I certainly made my share.
Being a parent is full of heartache and joy – mostly joy – but we can’t control our kids forever. And I think that parents who continue to try to lord over their children well after they’ve left the nest, are operating out of selfishness. They want this control because it makes them feel better. Not because it’s necessarily what’s best for their child.
Here’s my approach to parenting: Nurture. Encourage. Support.
But give them space. Don’t second-guess every move they make.
Oh, and worry. Worry plays a big part in being a father. And I do a lot of it. But I usually keep it to myself. I don’t want my irrational – and sometimes rational – fears to impede their growth.
My son graduated from college this past weekend. He’s a smart, sensitive, likeable young man who has spent the last four years searching for his passion and, I think, has finally found it. It’s a passion he had all along, but it’s something he wasn’t sure for all those years that he could turn into a reality. Now that he’s older and has spent some time in the world – even the insular world of college – I think he realizes that he’s in control of his own destiny and has a good shot at making his dreams come true. He has a plan of action mapped out and that has, I think, fueled him to push forward.
But beyond all that, he’s just a good kid. Someone who is, I believe, destined to contribute greatly to the world. And I couldn’t be more proud of him.
My daughter – our first born — has a Master’s degree in education and has just finished her fourth year as an elementary school teacher. My wife and I traveled up the coast with her this past weekend to watch our son graduate, and it’s always nice to spend time with her. She’s intelligent, funny and has one of the quickest wits of anyone I’ve ever known. And despite the fact that she’s been through more heartache in her life than most people her age, she has managed to get through it all with a largely positive attitude and a sense of optimism that I sometimes marvel at.
Her work is her passion. How many people do you know who actually say the words, “I love my job?”
Not many. But she’s one of them. And she’s exceptionally good at what she does. She is, I believe, the model of what every teacher should be. Committed, passionate, talented, creative and tireless.
And I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Whenever I’m with my kids, I see myself in them. The good and the bad, but mostly the good. And there is no greater reward than that.
With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, we’ll do the usual dinner thing, but I think it’s not so important that my children celebrate me as their father.
What the day should be about is me celebrating of my fatherhood. I’m the one who is lucky to have them. I’m the one who is lucky they turned out to be the wonderful children they are.
I probably don’t tell them this enough, but I can’t imagine loving anyone more than I love my kids, even during those times that I’m relegated to the back of their minds. Even though I no longer control their destiny.
When I look at them, at what they’ve become – and how they continue to grow – my chest tightens and the tears well up and I feel nothing but pure joy.
And every day is Father’s Day for me.