Reflections on Parenthood
I loved having children.
It’s been one of the high points of my life. I remember when they were babies, and I would hold them close, savoring their baby smell. I remember chasing after them when they were toddlers—they giggled while they ran away from me. It was fun when they learned to talk too. They had so much to say and so many questions to ask. Their childhood was a blur of playgrounds, birthday parties, adventures, and just hanging out. Like all parents, I fretted over the usual—how would they turn out, would they have happiness, and would they be safe? While I’m not a worrier, I worried like all parents. I learned about anxiety during their adolescence. The worst was all the practice driving I did with them when they were preparing to take their driver’s test. During those months, my hair turned gray. I can’t say that I enjoyed their teen years much. I was too scared.
When I dropped my first daughter off to college, I teared up. It seemed like the beginning of the end of this amazing phase of my life. And then, before I knew it, my youngest was off to college too. Of course, what they don’t tell you, is that when your kids are in college they are only in school 30 weeks a year. They are often home the other 22 weeks. But those four years flew by too.
Childhood is only a small part of our life. We are adults for the next 60 years or so. When our kids are in their 20’s they are trying to find their place on the adult stage. It’s another transition for us parents. We are no longer financially responsible for them or have any say in their decisions. They are (hopefully) launched into adulthood. Yet, we are still very involved in their lives. Our role is unclear and confusing. Do we give them unsolicited advice if we think they are making a mistake? Do we help them financially? Do we bail them out of self-made jams? How much involvement is too much?
And then, before we know it, they become adults in mid-life, with children of their own. Still parents, we become grandparents, with a whole new set of joys and fear. And as we get older, tide changes once again. Our children help us.
There was never a good guidebook for how to be an effective parent for our child. Indeed, we grow up together with our children. Hopefully, we all become better people from our experiences together.
Below are a few things I’ve learned:
Savor their childhood.
When you are with your children, drink deeply of all of the moments—even the mundane ones. Be 100% present when you are present. Put your smart phone away. Engrave these memories deep into your memory. These are fleeting experiences, and they rush by so quickly.
Learn to let go.
I can still remember my youngest daughter’s first solo bike ride—the instant I let go of the bike she rocketed across the blacktop. For her to ride solo, Mom and Dad should let go. Will she fall and scrape her knee? Letting go never stops---it continues throughout the entire course of our life.
Remember what’s important.
Childhood is an experience in of itself, but is also preparation for adulthood. To develop “good” judgement, so important for adulthood, kids must learn from mistakes. Don’t over protect them from the suffering that goes along with missteps.
I’ve learned a lot in this job—being a Dad for my two daughters. Truly, it’s been a labor of love.