As I stood skipping rocks at a muddy pond for three hours it occurred to me that there might be something much more worthwhile I should be doing with my kids. Perhaps we should be studying for their dreaded science test or implementing a spring cleaning chore schedule to teach them about responsibility. Maybe a round of backyard softball practice would better prepare them for their first game coming this week. It seemed like it took them forever to learn the careful art of throwing a flat rock sideways so that it would skid across the waters surface; and although they eventually learned- the hours passed quickly. As we made our way through the open pasture headed towards home I wondered like I often do, “Am I a good parent?” Would a good parent really spend half a day goofing off in the sun when there were plenty of more pressing issues to deal with?
When our children are young we instinctively take care of them. Their bathing, eating, sleeping and care is totally dependant upon us and we have neither the time nor inclination to wonder about our parenting skills. If all seems normal and we can find their behavior or action in print or a pediatrician can confirm its normal, we roll along with the punches assuming we are doing our best. As they grow though it seems that life can come crashing in on the party. School and friends deliver a whole new set of problems and circumstances to deal with. Just as the children are being tested for character, parents are being tested for their ability to parent. We may ask ourselves would a good parent do this or that in order to find solutions to our problems. We may look to what our own parents did – whether we feel they were good or not and make decisions based on that. The bottom line is that being a good parent is really not about our kids. Our kids are much more than simply a mirror to our parenting style and quality. They are individuals with their own minds, personalities and ideas and often the best of parents in the world raise total losers.
In order to answer the nagging questions “Am I a good Parent” we must decide first what a good parent does. Good parents first and foremost love their kids and want what is best for them. Good parents realize that although they have been given the gift of a child, they in no way, shape or form own this person. Children belong to the world, not to their parents. Good parents realize that loving their child and being attached to their child are two separate things and never chooses the later. If we attach to our kids we hold them hostage to our family and never truly give them the opportunity to personally unfold. They are not brought into our lives to suit our purposes, needs or insecurities and are completely entitled to their own life (even at a young age) where they stand firmly on their own two feet.
Good parents also never embarrass or humiliate their children. This can mean saving an argument till later or holding back their own feelings until they are in a place of privacy. Even there; parents do not need to be the one who shows a child how it feels to be degraded, humiliated or put down – as the world will bring that to light quickly enough. Good parents anger slowly, remain steady like a river and control their tidal emotions as meticulously as Mother Nature controls the sea. When there is uproar or a storm, good parents handle it with dignity, respect setting firm limitations and providing clear understanding of the moral to be learned. Good parents never say “I told you so” or “You will fail” instead they watch from the side lines as their flesh and blood make mistakes that will teach them better than we or a teacher every could. Good parents trust in the world to take care of things and for time to make things well and right. If neither of these seems like it will come to fruition, good parents act fast in order to save a life or a future regardless of what the child thinks. Good parents are one letter short of god parents and as such we need to remain patient, loving, calm, passionate and diligent toward the people we are helping to grow into adults. The questions still lingers, “Am I a good parent?”
Good parents most certainly say no when it is necessary yet they say yes as often as possible. They understand that childhood is but a fleeting moment of life that provides memories and a foundation which will last a lifetime. Good parents understand that a child doesn’t realize they are fortunate and they point it out to them as much as possible, always striving to show them their life in a positive way. Good parents usually don’t make good friends, but they do make great companions and wonderful heroes for children to look up to. Good parents make mistakes, make bad decisions and often react from a spot in the heart that makes them feel like a child themselves. Good parents see in their kids all the possibility, talent and success that is forthcoming and although they get irritated, angry, worried, sad or depressed along the way good parents never give up! Never!
As we finally approach the steps to the house my children are dirty; with mud between their toes and splashed speckles of murky pond water on their clothes. They smell of sunshine and earth. Their hair is wind blown and their cheeks are rosy from the sun that this good parent failed to protect them from. As soon as we go inside we have a ton of things to tend to like homework, showers, dinner and bedtime so they will wake up shiny and ready for school in the morning. As they turn to hug me in excitement about what I taught them at the pond I realize in an instant that I am a good parent. I bask in that warmth for just a minute or two and prepare to switch hats from playful to productive. In a week or month I will be tossing around the maddening question in my head again, “Am I a good parent?” Hopefully there will be a glimpse of happy children in my life that will no doubt remind me that all this hard work and worry is really paying off! For now, I am a good parent like most of us in this world. The tell tale signs are in my children’s eyes. There will be much that they forget about me and their childhood, but I imagine and hope that they will always remember who it was who taught them to skip stones. In that memory they will agree that I am a good parent indeed!