Okay, full disclosure. I don’t really know how to be a good parent.
When my children were growing up and people would ask me why my kids were so well behaved, I would usually say “I’m lucky”. Or point to Deb, because she is an awesome mother! My kids are now 26, 23, and 20. The “heavy lifting” of parenthood is behind me, but you never stop being a parent when you have kids.
Something you learn when you have more than one child, though, is that no one child is the same. Each one has their unique needs and reactions.
I think I was able to bring a positive attitude and an agreement with my wife on how we were going to raise our children. It’s also important to be united on punishments when necessary. We didn’t spank our kids, but if they had a time out or lost privileges neither one of us tried to undermine the other by being the “good” cop.
I was also inspired before I became a parent by two pieces of art. One a song and the other a poem.
Music is often white-noise for me. I like the melody, but I don’t always listen to the lyrics. In the summer of 1978, I remember listening to the lyrics of Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. I was only 15 years old and the words were like a punch in the gut. The son wanting to be with the Dad when the Dad was too busy and then Dad wanting to be with the son when the son was too busy. It broke my heart.
I know, it was just a song; but it moved me. Maybe part of it was because I had a father who was often busy with work. I knew that I never wanted that to happen to me with my kids.
When I was in University, my mother introduced me to The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. There are so many beautiful poems, but the one “On Children” also resonated with me.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
When my kids were young, I used to read that poem once a week for almost ten years.
The song and the poem are one of the reasons why I coached my kids even though I hate sports. It’s why I valued my home time above anything else. It’s what drew me away from my distractions and focused on my kids.
I wasn’t always successful. I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t a perfect dad. But the key is to try. To try to be a good parent and look at the needs of your children, as opposed to your own needs.
And being able to say “I’m sorry” when you screw up is important too. Your children are never too old or too young to hear you apologize when you’ve made a mistake.
© 2018 Peter Gruner