When children are old enough to leave home, the finality of the parenting journey hits you smack in the heart. It is then you realize there is no second chance, no going back: your parenting efforts are at an end and the product is as complete as you have made it. Hoping to be proud of what was done right, it is too late to regret what could have been done better. It is best to take satisfaction in the former, and accept the latter without excessive inner turmoil or guilt. Inevitably, children become adults, physically and hopefully, emotionally and parents should gladly allow, and children should gratefully accept the responsibility for making their own decisions regarding life style, professional goals, work and marriage.
Sadly, some parents may have to stand by with broken hearts and watch a son or daughter make wrong decisions. If you did your best, take comfort in that because everyone’s best is not the same or equal. Or in some cases, sufficient for the task. Parenting is different now than it was fifty years ago. It was the way it was done then, this is now. I do not advocate going back, I am, however, encouraging the modern day parent to take the best from the past and blend it with the best of the present. That is what civilized people do to keep their culture thriving. There are, however, some verities that should have withstood the test of time: honesty, accountability, respect, honor, kindness and the ability to love and be loved, to name a few.
In spite of parental convictions and efforts, the qualities held dear may not have sunk in, may not have instilled. It is impossible to foresee motives or medical problems that affect the paths children follow. In spite of availability of roadmaps, some may choose to forge their own trails.
Did our generation make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I? Of course I did. There are times I wish I could start over and get everything right the second time. Should I have been firmer or more flexible? Should I have assisted or allowed failure? Should I have turned a blind eye or confronted? Parents will always wonder about past decisions. Even the most caring of parents who did many things right probably did a few things wrong.
When kids disappoint, it may not be the parents’ fault. Be careful about accepting all the blame. Kids cannot all turn out to be the top in their chosen field. Kids grow up to be teachers and professionals but also many are manual laborers, salaried workers, postal workers, pizza deliverymen, painters or cowboys, but good parenting transcends it all. The child who you thought could be president may prefer working in construction or on a factory assembly line. Do not fault yourself for your children choosing to follow their own pathways. Are they at peace? Do they love their family? Are they kind, thoughtful and provident? Are they good parents to their kids? If the answers are yes, you deserve a medal for excellence. As do they.
I do not know how or when children in our culture lost the feeling of deference toward their elders or the entities of authority in their lives. I do not know when they stopped honoring, by word and action, our free nation as special among the countries of the world. When and by what means did they adopt the idea that the whole world exists to provide them gratification? What is taking place in the streets of our cities make me search for answers to these concerns.
Children are adults-in- training, unfinished projects and the efforts and obligations of their parents should be to strengthen their spines, enhance their intellect and ability to make good life decisions. Loyalty, trust, decency, accountability, honesty, respect, kindness and the willingness to love are verities that never change and represent a parent’s true legacy to their children. Therein lies our earthly immortality.
We all share a “road map”, dog-eared and worn from use by preceding generations and handed down to us by word and example. The boulders and pitfalls are still in the road, some are bigger, and some are different than they were when our parents and grandparents passed this way. The parenting journey was never easy but my hope is that parents in this day and time aspire to be counted among those who, with map in hand, step up and meet the challenge of teaching, inspiring and guiding the generation that will follow after them.
(Above is a partial excerpt from my book Retro Parenting.)
M. Flados resides in Harlingen, Texas and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.