[Re-posted from 2015-11-08]
The question is, “How do you think you’ve done as a parent?”
Generally speaking, or the short answer, I’d say that along with the kid’s mom (Amy) we’ve done a decent job. Yes, I’ve made “many” mistakes along the way, but I feel they’re on paths that will lead them to good lives. They’re still learning…still growing…and there are still so many things I want for them in their lives…but I can only direct them so much. It’s their decisions now. I’m just here for “advice from the old man” on occasion. Which doesn’t bother me one bit…in fact I rather welcome those moments when I have a “use”.
But how can you really answer that question of “quality parenting”? There are so many variables to judge in that question. Did I spend enough time with them (as small children all the way through the teenage years)? Playing, listening, participating? Was I there when it mattered? Am I there now? What do they think they needed? Did I provide it? What did it I get right? Where did I screw up?
The real answers would come from Drew and Lauren themselves. In fact, I would invite them to give their honest opinions on this subject (public or private)…to me and/or their mom. Take the opportunity to open up…let us know what they really think…how they really feel. Tell us what they really wanted then and what they want now.
On the matter of spending time with my children…I think I failed when it came to the teenage years. I let my own concerns cloud my decisions. I let my own needs outweigh those of my children…and the rest of my family and friends. I will however confess, I feel there were some other factors that kept me from my kids during their teenage years…factors that aren’t appropriate to discuss here.
How do I think I compare against my own father? Even with my failings…I think I succeeded in providing my children a better life than I had. When I think back about my own dad and the time he spent with me (and my siblings)…there are only a few “good” times that I could identify. There were a few times we played ball in the backyard, went fishing, and took road-trips or vacations. He wasn’t the kind of person to sit on the floor and play games with you. Yes, he provided for us…kept us fed and housed…but other than that…I can’t say anything nicer.
These days, it breaks my heart every time my children come to visit and then have to leave. I know they’re young adults now…beginning their own lives…but it still doesn’t mean I don’t still see them as my little kiddos. I still want to cuddle them in my arms like they were still little innocent toddlers. I’d be perfectly content to sit down with them and watch The Lion King or Beauty and The Beast. Call me an ole’ sap…suits me fine. I’ve been told more than once that I have a very active emotional side…unfortunately it gets the best of me sometimes.
I harbor a lot of guilt for the situations I’ve put my children, family and friends through. I know God can forgive us…but can we forgive ourselves? Maybe. Maybe not. However, forgiveness is one thing…it’s the forgetting part that I’m pretty sure I’m incapable of mastering. Knowing that I permanently damaged my own outlook on life makes me believe that my kids have to possess some of the same feelings. I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself…I just sometimes think the guilt is my punishment. If it is punishment…how long is the sentence? If it’s not punishment, how long before I can forgive myself for the lives I messed up?
I continue to ask God for strength…to help me understand the things I cannot understand.
I continue to pray that someday…I’ll have a Rockwell family photo to hang on the wall. I pray that someday I figure out how to have “normal” and “continuous” interactions with my kids. Maybe I’m not the only father (or parent) that deals with this situation. If you’re in the same boat with me…and you have some useful advice on “being a parent to a young adult”…please don’t hesitate to share your experiences.
The next post in this series will be about Father Figures (…others). I’ll address the fathers, mentors, and other male figures that have influenced me throughout my years.