Parenting - Begins & Never Ends

A friend and I recently had a long in-depth conversation about being a parent and what it has come to mean to us. We discussed over tea what we have come to learn over time. If I were to elaborate, in writing, on some of our thoughts, it would be something like this:

Being a parent is not a title. It’s not being simply a sperm donor or producing an ovary. It is more than just applying band-aids to boo boos. Paying lip service to needs and wants of children does not qualify as taking care of a child, addressing reality. Being a parent is hard work with limitless rewards that cannot be quantified or qualified if you are fortunate enough to have a child that makes good choices with their life. Let’s face it, all children, all of us are born into this world and given the gift of free will. Even in the best of homes and with wonderful parents, some children go wayward and make bad choices. Some never get back on the right track. Being a parent is, when they do, trying many measures to turn things around. It also means, when a parent makes errors in judgments, seeking help needed to right a wrong, no matter what age a parent is to rectify the issue(s). Parents are not perfect either; God didn’t make them that way. Parents grow and learn much as their children do.

Having children entails an endless list of tasks, especially during those early growing years that seem to pile up with a life of their own. About the time a parent thinks they can’t possibly add one more thing to their weekly schedule, here comes another school project during a crowded week, an extra sports tournament over a holiday weekend they must attend, or a new club they decide to join. They even sometimes pick a brand new sport you are not familiar with and decide to give it a try. And then, lo and behold, they are short coaches, and without you volunteering, the team won’t have a coach! Being a parent is sometimes holding your hand up when it is the last thing you want to do! You then find yourself forced to keep your sense of humor in check and deal with unreasonable parents of children that are convinced you have future Olympians on your team.

Kids get sick requiring time off of work. Parenting is taking those days off of work instead of using those sick days for themselves. Leaving work early not to soak up the sun but to run kids to either soccer practice or for allergy shots. Children forget homework, forget gym clothes and forget lunch money all requiring a trip home from work and to the local school, but this is part of being a parent. And then there is the inopportune time they take suddenly ill and you have your annual review and/or meeting with your boss. Of all days, it would have to fall on this day!

Yes, being a parent is holding a child in your arms when their heart is breaking from school mates picking on them or a broken romance. Being a responsible parent is insisting homework is done, taking an active interest in what they are doing at school and how they are performing verses just assuming they are performing up to par. Supporting the need for a good education is as important as letting a child know they are loved. Maintaining discipline and teaching consequences is an important responsibility of a parent. It is a unique way to show love, though often does not come across to a child as sending that message! It prepares children for a world full of rules and regulations that they are expected to obey and if not taken seriously, they will be punished in one form or another. This lesson is essential for responsible parenting. Will your child or teenager thank you for this lesson? Probably not, but none the less, it is an invaluable one that needs to be taught.

Arguments will ensure over restrictions and punishments probably more than anything else in the home with children and parents. It is a part of being a parent and goes with the responsibility. As children grow older and learn about our founding fathers strive to develop a government built on democracy, children will demand that form of leadership in the home. Being a parent means saying no; explaining rules are made by those in charge. It means days will go by when your child will hate you. They are permitted to but they must do so with respect, and the parent will know this too shall pass. Even when they are adults, this cycle of love and hate could continue, in some relationships. There may be weeks, months or years in the extreme cases, where the communication is nonexistent. Yet some adult children and parents get along splendidly. Favor ability and popularity is not part of the equation for parents. So even when their adult children hate them, being a parent means accepting the silent treatment, the anger and the wall that is up until the adult child remembers the steadfast parent and lets it back down one day.

Parents are there to answer the tough questions; why is the sky blue? Why does God not answer every prayer? Why isn’t my daddy more involved in my life? Why did my mommy give me up? Why do bad things happen to good people? When they can’t come up with a satisfactory answer, moms and dads search for one.

Being a mom or dad is trying to meet the needs of your children if you can, sometimes with overwhelming obstacles. Sometimes it means giving up your pride and asking for help when you can’t and need assistance or searching for that aide. Having a child that may never walk, never talk, has lifelong health issues, may not live till adulthood, and entails a parent be a cheerleader for a cause. It requires a parent be informed, educated constantly to ensure good care and the voice of knowledge for their child and others in the community. These parents are the chosen ones that have a child that is destined to make a difference, truly, in the world by their very nature, their special need. They must raise their child to be stronger than others so that they can rise above and not be a prisoner of their misfortune.

Understanding why kids want name brand clothes and shoes, to fit in with their peers is important as a parent, even if you can’t provide it. Children need parents that will try to understand their world, in spite of the age differences, their voices need to be heard. Communication begins in the home. Kids prefer contacts at a certain age, over glasses, even if you longer do. Teenagers want to be dropped off on the far side of the parking lot, even on a cold day and to pretend they don’t know you in public even though you are proud to be their parent. This is part of the nature of being a parent.

Being a parent is being there, allowing children to grow, and being a stable support system. It means allowing them to make mistakes. It also means allowing yourself to make them as well. It is explaining to children no one is perfect and perfection is not the goal for anyone. This support, as they grow older, should turn more mutual in nature and less one sided. The bond should stay intact if not grow stronger, as the years go by. The memories live on forever and build, one on top of another, overflowing.

Being a parent also means you are the only one that can get a child to stop crying in those first early months on this earth. It means you had the joy of that look of unconditional love when they were an infant. Being a parent is being cooed at in the middle of the night, it means you were the one that double checked they had ten fingers and ten toes. It can mean you were lucky enough to read stories at bedtime, tucked them in and were able to look in on them each night before they went to sleep, and saw them looking like angels snug in their bed. You were the one they ran to each morning to begin a day anew and they were so excited to see you each and every day.

Seeing a child light up on their birthdays is a joy to a parent like no other. Being a parent means experiencing moments like this over and over again. Holding a camera and seeing through the lenses a child’s look of fear as they sit on Santa’s lap or the Easter bunny. A parent gets to smile to themselves with delight knowing these moments are special and will pass all too quickly but are precious times. Being a parent is feeling a loud thumb in your chest when your child walks across the stage to accept an award, a diploma or simply their name is announced for anything at all. It takes little for a parent to feel a sense of pride and yet, a parent gets to experience it like no other. When the marching band takes the field, a parent is the only one that can spot their child in the group or their child on the football team huddle because they alone have a sense of where they are when they are in the midst in the area.

Being a parent is sitting with other parents on sunny warm days and watching your child contribute to the success of team sports or dance recitals or individual talents and knowing you are a strong proponent of who they are. Hearing the thousand times a parent hears I love you from childhood to adulthood is a gift unto itself. Having a collection of handmade keepsakes that show thought that went into artwork is mementos for parenting. And knowing that prayers were answered is the joy of parenting also.

The hope for parents is that their child will become a happy well adjusted adult. Knowing that parents have to make unfavorable decisions that are in the best interests of their children, though hard at times, is a small price to pay for the end result. Even if the child does not understand it, parents have an obligation to try to put their children in the safest surest path in life to lead them to happiness and well being.

When they reach adulthood and begin to make their own decisions, the light switch does not come off; you do not stop becoming a parent. Yes, your children want more independence and truly deserve that. If you have done your job well, they will be fine. But the bond is still there.

When kids reach adulthood, they make their own decisions pretty much exclusively. Parents’ feelings do not dissipate though. These emotions and love are not like light switches, just flipping from the on position to the off position at a certain age. When a parent has put all the work, and love in to developing this adult, the relationship should continue. There very well may be new disagreements during adulthood and differences of opinions but the relationship should remain intact. Throughout childhood, adversity was par for the course so even though adult children and parents of adult kids may have their differences, the beauty of the connection is that it should truly be full circle. It should remain unbroken.

Yes, being a parent is hard to define. Perhaps many parents would have their own individual spin on what it means to them but, overall the commonalities would outnumber the differences. My friend and I shared similar experiences as parents with our children during the growing up years. Our relationships, now as adults with adult children, appear to be, on some fronts, similar and then, in other ways, quite different. Perhaps it is how it is meant to be. But, at the end of the day, we are in agreement, there is no greater blessing.

Ah, perhaps one comes close in comparison though. Sharing a wonderfully warm splice of time with a special friend. What could be better than a warm cup of fennel tea to reminiscence about the past, celebrate the present and anticipate a future full of a friendship continuing to evolve with more precious memories?
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