― Robert A. Heinlein
There is no manual that helps us to raise children, and I find that those without children seem sure that they have all of the answers. They don’t, because there are no answers. Arthur and I flew by the seat of our pants, and sometimes we felt like we were on a course to crash and burn. The basic things that guided us through the tough road of parenthood though, was complete love and respect for these two people who depended on us.
We were far from perfect, but I believe we were good parents. Despite a few little hiccups (Michael’s goal was to drive his father just a little insane, and Beth went through a period when she had a sketchy relationship with the truth) our kids made parenting easy. Our happiest moments always did, and always will, center around them.
My greatest fears and practically every grey hair on my head center around them, however, and that caused me to be an overprotective parent. This was my greatest parenting weakness, and it helps me understand what is motivating the helicopter parents of today. I know where you are coming from, but I believe the hovering causes more harm than good.
My two were lucky, because Arthur and I did a good job balancing each other in that area. I grew up with a father whose worrying was evident and stifled me in many ways. I never rode a bike, sat on a sled or drove a car until I was married. I was never allowed to go exploring past my neighbor’s house, and when I started dating I wasn’t allowed out in inclement weather. Arthur, on the other hand, took buses and hikes to “fishing holes” when he was eight. He learned to navigate himself at an early age, and that served him well.
Life was different when our kids were growing up (the kidnapping and murder of Adam Walsh in South Florida acted as a wake up call for many) and eight year olds didn’t generally ride buses alone, but Arthur helped me see that bicycles weren’t weapons and some freedom was important to a child’s well-being. The one thing we did agree on completely was that we were determined not to challenge their educators unless we felt Mike and Beth were unable to stand up for themselves. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.
Mike, a Psychologist, and my nephew Jonathan, a former Dean of Student Affairs, tell me stories that are impossible to comprehend, about parents who challenge college professors over the grades their sons/daughters received. Parents, if your children can’t figure out how to stand up for themselves by the time they are in college (and grad school) then you really dropped the ball during their formative years. As a high school teacher, I was much more likely to change a grade for a student who presented a succinct case explaining their reasoning then for a pushy parent who thought his/her child deserved special treatment.
Rather than trying to solve all of your children’s problems, supply them with the tools to solve their own. Show them by example how calm and rational behavior will get them much farther than rude and disrespectful behavior. My debate team quickly learned the benefit of organized thoughts and a calm presentation. Those are the things you must teach to build character in your sons and daughters. Don’t make life too easy for them, because there will come a day when you won’t be there to pick up the pieces, and no book will be able to teach them what a loving parent can in those early years.
Speaking of books, I enjoyed one from one of my favorite authors this week. The Girl in the Glass Box: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando will be published in a few weeks, and it was definitely a worthwhile read. It had a timely theme and tightly written story that will have you thinking long after the last page is turned.
As always, a complete review of this book follows my blog.