Here’s how I see my job as a parent. My job is not to be my kids’ best friend (although, someday, I hope that they’ll think of me as a friend). My job is not to make them feel like they’re amazing at everything and to bolster their ego at every turn. My job is not to do everything for them and cater to their every whim.
My job is to teach them how to be grown-ups.
The majority of their lives will be spent in adulthood. Therefore, they need to know how to exist in the world as an adult. As an adult, they will not receive rewards or recognition for participation. They will not get praise from their boss for doing a good enough job. They will not garner love and affection and respect for thinking of self first. My job is to teach them to be worthy of praise and admiration, to command – not demand – respect.
As harsh as it sounds, I want my sons to fail – to not always get what they want the first time. I want them to have to work hard for something and not have everything come easily. I want them to know disappointment so that they can feel gratitude. It is my job to teach them that failure does not define us. It is how we respond to failure that can make us weak or make us great.
I want them, at least once, to feel disappointment in themselves. I want them to then use that terrible, gut wrenching feeling to remind themselves to do better, to be better. I want them to know that, sometimes, to be proud of our own actions, we have to take the hard road, if that is what is necessary.
It is my job to demonstrate, through example, what it is like to pursue one’s dreams. Because I want my sons to pursue their dreams. I want them to find joy in their work and meaning in their lives and love in their relationships. I never want them to stop growing and learning and proving to themselves how strong they can be.
So, I will challenge my children to be better than they are. I will let them know when they are failing and I will teach them the importance of a heart-felt “I’m sorry”. But in that same breath, I will reassure them that they are good and strong individuals. I will hug them and let them know that they can do and be whatever they want, as long as they are willing to put in hard work and treat others well. Tomorrow is a new day. If we fail today, tomorrow offers new opportunity.
My greatest wish is that they will go into the world and be amazing humans. That they will be humble and kind. That they will give more to the world, and to others, than they receive. And that they will recall all of those that helped them along the way and not foster the false sense that they are “self made”.
I hope that they will look back on their childhoods and know that they were loved and supported, but also stretched and challenged. I hope that they will remember hugs and laughter but also the very important tears, anger, frustration, and heartache that are part of normal life.
For, while life is wonderful, it is not always happy or easy. It is my job to teach them to acknowledge and embrace the hard times and to let others help them along the way. For it is most often through the love and caring of others that we find grace.
My wish is that they will look back and think “My parents loved me, of that I have no doubt”. And, when they have their own children, I hope that they will recognize the love and devotion and purposeful parenting that went in to raising them and think “My parents did a pretty good job”.