As parents, there are a lot of things we are required to do. Just by the nature of the job, we have agreed to feed, clothe and house our children. We have agreed to hold their hands when they are scared. We have agreed to live in a home that loses its value on a daily basis, as they kick through walls and break windows.
There are also some things that we are not required to do. We are not required to get them out of every tough spot. We are not required to make sure they never get hurt.
And we certainly are not required to live our own lives vicariously through theirs.
Each year, we hear about some crazed parent who forgets about the things we are not required to do. It often comes to the forefront through sports.
Little Johnny is playing hockey. Even though he is already in his teens, he skates a bit on his ankles, and his skating speed is slightly more than steam roller. He does, however, have a booming slapshot.
His parents are convinced that little Johnny is NHL material. Forget the fact that a kid has about a 1 in 4000 chance of making the NHL. Forget that he isn’t dominating at every age.
Little Johnny is the exception. It’s just that the coach, the fans, and – especially – the referee don’t seem to grasp the situation.
So the parents begin to pester the coach for more playing time. They glare and yell at any fan who dares boo their boy. And, of course, they react outrageously when the referee dares to call them offside.
Or sends them to the penalty box.
This is when all hell breaks loose. Screaming. Tantrums. Threats of bodily harm to the ref after the game.
All because the parents forgot that there are things that parents are not required to do.
I’ve always loved being a dad. People have asked me, now that my sons are both adults, what stage of their lives was my favourite.
I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed them all.
So … we raise our children to the best of our abilities. We make sure they have food, clothing, and a roof over their heads. We try to instill some basic values in them: the importance of hard work, of doing unto others, and of caring for someone other than themselves.
And then we let them go.
They were never really ours to begin with. They have always been themselves.
Will my sons make mistakes? Yes, although they both have very intelligent and caring significant others, so the chances of major screwups goes down.
Will they get hurt? As much as I’d like to hope that they wouldn’t, it’s almost a certainty that they will.
Will they be alright? I am certainly hopeful that they will be.
Does this “hands off” attitude mean that I won’t be there to help them out if they need it? Of course not. But … only if they ask.
They are smart and resourceful. They can figure things out on their own.
Tonight, my oldest son has a CD release concert with his band. I have seen – and heard – his dedication to learning to master the guitar. I have heard his singing voice improve with every practice and performance. I’ve seen him arrange venues, get cds printed, and the various other things that need to happen to give a band a shot at success. Whatever success means to them.
My younger son is currently at university in Winnipeg. He is there because he loves music. More importantly, he is there because he has drive and determination to overcome obstacles.
I remember – painfully – getting him his first set of drums and listening to the awful racket. Those marathon, daily sessions still echo in my mind. Now, though, through hard work and dedication, he makes music with his hands.
What was my part in their successes? Sure, I paid for lessons. Yes, I encouraged and supported them.
Their success, though, is because of their own hard work. Because they are their own people.
My job, as a dad, really boils down to one thing: let my kids know I love them.
If I’ve done that, then I think it’s a job well done, and that’s enough for me.