Monday, March 11, 2013

A Parent's Victory Lap: Random Thoughts

by Hero Jenkins

Remember those months while we waited for our kids to be born, remember when people asked us what were we hoping for. They were referring to what SEX… a boy or a girl. For you ultrasound youngsters, yes there was a time when we couldn’t find out what the sex of our unborn was until they were born. This was the questions we asked one another. Our response was always something like: “I don’t care as long as they have all of their fingers and toes I will be happy. “

But that was a lie and we knew it… we just wouldn’t say what our preference was… I’m not really sure why.

And remember after the child was born, just having all of their fingers and toes wasn’t good enough for us, so most of us worked hard to provide our child with what they needed to thrive. We pushed our kids to do good in school. We encouraged them to excel in athletics. We demanded that they tried their hardest at whatever they did and they weren’t allowed to quit. Yet when people asked us what we hoped for our kid's future we lied again. We said… “I don’t care, as long as they are happy.”

The truth is we did care! Every parent dreams that their kids will reach their full potential. Perhaps they will be a Barak Obama, to grow up to be President. To be a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, to grow up and invent that “thing” that changed the world. To be a Mohammad Ali, or Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant to be the standard in his or her sport that everyone else is measured by. We worried, didn’t we, that they would become that guy that climbed up into that tower in Dallas in 1961 or that guy who just recently walked into that school in Newtown.

The truth most of our kids will fall somewhere between these extremes. After all where do crackheads and prostitutes come from? … They don’t just ooze up out of the pavement. They are made and we all worry that there is something we are doing or did that can cause this epic failure. Sometimes it is the parents fault, but often it is not! Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the worry does it? Even if it is a tiny worry buried deep… it is still there.

About 25 years ago, we spent $3,000 to take our kids on and EPIC WEEKEND. We had an indescribable time. It was over the top, it was spectacular, it was an adventure. We still talk about it when we get together and drudge up old memories. However, today that $3,000 would conservatively be worth $30,000 or more and it would no doubt come in handy… especially these days. My wife and I decided early on that we wanted to “make memories”… FANTASTIC MEMORIES… for our kids. So that’s what we did…. But… did we make a mistake in spending that money to make that lifetime memory. Would we have better served our kids by investing that $3,000 25 years ago and handing them the $30,000 today instead.

That’s the struggle, that is the question and the answer is always “balance”. I read an article last week where a caregiver listed the top five laments of those who had reached the end of their lives. Always in the top five was the wish that they had not worked so hard and the wish that they had not let their relationships wither and die. I know some parents who have worked hard and have substantial resources to pass on. But it came at a cost… their children do not know them and in many cases do not even like them. The kids take the money and happily spend it with little love for the hand that presented it to them. Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum where the parents didn’t work, squandered opportunities and as a result arrive at adulthood with nothing. They take from their kids and give nothing. Sometimes the kids genuinely care for their parents but often it is just guilt.

We struggle with the balance between the gentle nudge of motivation and pushing them over the edge. The balance between correction and squashing their spirit. Between encouraging independence and heading off destructive behavior.

You see… there is a broad area of balance between the two extremes and most of us fall within that broad area. You worry that you have not been great parents. I want to say to you that you have.

You lament that you haven’t given you child great riches and from where you stand… looking forward, that’s not likely to happen. Relax! Your kids are not rich, but they are happy. They are not changing the world for everybody, but they are good people and if you looked closer you would see that they are volunteering, donating, making the world better for somebody.

Is there something you could have done better? The answer is yes! But that isn’t a fair question. The question should be: did you do the best you could with what you had to work, with knowing what you knew at the time. Did you work hard and sacrifice and do for your kids before you would do for yourself. Did you stay up late and nurse them back to health when they were sick. Did you sit up some nights on those nights when they were out in this cold cruel world and pray for their safety?

Yes, you did all of these things and you have raised some great kids and its time for a victory lap because you have done the miraculous.

But you won’t, take that lap you will keep pushing to make your kid’s lives better and you will continue worrying that you have not done enough. Because a parent never stops. If this is you, I want you to step back for a minute and get a bit of perspective on where you have come from and what you have accomplished and then get back to work.

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