As a Parent, It is All About the Obvious
Like riding a bike, getting married, and driving, parenting is one of those things that you have to experience to understand. There is nothing greater, and nothing more impossible to convey, than the importance and meaning that comes with being a parent. Being a good parent is a lifelong choice. And, for most of us, it is an easy one.
The Rule Book
No matter the generation, parenting is a half-charted adventure. We enter parenting with ideals, faith, and general direction, but very little is concrete. As parents, we rely on the treasure trove of lessons taught to us by our parents and lessons we learned as children as we dealt with our own particular challenges. Our children will inevitably present us with new challenges of their own and prove to us time and time again that there is no rule book!
While the particular challenges change, there is a need that remains constant — to do one thing above all else — always be there for our children.
As parents, we are an extension of our child’s support and security system. We are able to empower our children with concepts of what is possible and what is right, before they have learned those lessons for themselves. Our children place trust in us like no one else in their lives. That does not mean they will always listen. While easy lessons are celebrated, the hard ones seem inevitable. All are important.
My father always explained it to me this way: “There are some lessons you learn the easy way. There are some you learn the hard way. The worst lessons are the ones you never learn. Now, which one is this going to be?”
With us as a safety net, our children are able to take risks, explore the world, and take on challenges that could not be managed without us there to catch them when they fall. The role of a parent in expanding the world of possibilities and the landscape of learning opportunities is both monumental and irreplaceable. And at some point later in our children’s lives, it is truly appreciated.
We are there for our children from the time they are born until the time we leave this Earth. It is a lifetime commitment that, as parents, can be difficult on the surface when we are supporting our children through hardships of every kind, but the heart level comes naturally and easily, even in the face of adolescent defiance and conflict. We may be angry or disappointed, but deep down we always love and will do anything to responsibly provide the best for our children.
Is it fair that our children put us through so many trials and tribulations? What would our parents tell us?
Sometimes a One-Way Street
Of course, our children do not have our perspective. There are things naturally taken for granted — shelter, food, even the love of family. Without those worries, their development is free to find focus in other areas. Just because their attention is elsewhere and they are taking our love for granted, it does not mean that our love is not shared and anchoring their lives.
Hold hope. Lessons of gratefulness are an investment.
Many of the lessons we pass on to our children, many of the efforts we put forth, many of the resources we expend, are not appreciated until later. Although some appreciations certainly come when our children branch out on their own, some appreciations are not realized until our children step into parenting roles of their own.
All of the lessons of appreciation that seem unheard will surface later when they are ready to be understood. Just as it happened for us.
The home-cooked meal that sends a wave of appreciation and comfort through that college student’s face as they take their first bite of fresh-from-the-oven homemade joy is proof of our success. The difference between laundry “just being taken care of” and our children appreciating us helping them out with switching laundry on a weekend home from college gives us hope as parents that everything we did was not in vain.
Even small successes let us know that we have done our job and that traditions have a chance to live another generation — traditions of support, of holidays, of love, and of the importance of family.
It is not until our children have children of their own and are successful as parents that we get to rest. It is a time when our children get to experience first hand the joy that comes from being “always there” for their children. When our children become successful parents we get to pass the torch to them. That is when our children get to experience the journey and do their part to secure the future for generations to come before passing the torch themselves.