Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them. Bill Ayers
Several months ago, I sat with family, as I watched my oldest cross the stage to receive his high school diploma. We were awash in emotion as his achievement was handed to him by administration. He beamed at us from the stage for that brief moment in time and then it was over. There was certain finality to the idea that he was now a high school graduate. The idea that I have amassed enough birthdays to have an adult child was almost incredulous to me, but there I was just another graying middle aged man seeing his progeny move into the next stage of life.
What it takes to get to this point can lead one to drink without a strong resolve. Parenting is the most important and probably the most frightening undertaking any human being can ever be a part of. It comes with no instruction booklet. There is no neat little cellophane bag attached to the toe of that new human being. A little person that will now look to you and your co-parent, if you lucky enough to have one, to provide all it will need in life. You sit there in wonderment and confusion as to what am I to do with this fleshy thing that is now my responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 45 when you have your first child you will not know exactly what to do. Yes, you will know to feed it, change diapers, and pick the little bundle up when they cry, but I am not speaking of the rudiments of parenting. I am referencing the deep emotional bricks you will need to use to build a successful human being.
Love is the best gift any parent can give their child. It’s free. It doesn’t cost a person one thin dime to give love to a child. However, some children don’t receive that basic foundation. An unloved child left to their own vices in a cruel world will find it hard to be successful. When adults make the choice to intermingle and create a life, the individuals involved need to be ready to give all the love they have to a child. A child is born a blank slate. Outside of the standard operating equipment and reflexes you are the sole provider of nourishment, love, and protection. It’s a massive responsibility. You hope you are good enough to lead another human being and can avoid life altering mistakes. However, mistakes are all part of the undertaking called parenting. It’s how we deal with missteps that are the true test.
We as parents have an immense capability to irrevocably damage a child. In the beginning, we are all they have. As time progresses we are the best example our kids can ever have. The life we chose to live in front of them is etched into their minds for the remainder of their life. Either we can be a moral example of how to live life or leave them to their own vices and hope the wilds of the world raises them correctly. Either choice is a risk because sometimes you can do all that is right in your mind and things still don’t turn out right. However, it’s an adventure and as with all adventures there are risks that can lead to great rewards.
Over the course of the years as we navigate the stormy seas and calm evenings of being a parent, we must be prepared to offer advice and soul healing affection when darkness visits our children. Trust the days will come when they walk into our homes with their heads down and emotionally raw from the sucker punches that life often throws our way. Out of breath and exasperated they will plop down on the couch and look to you to be the soothing balm of understanding and love. When they ask for your advice just listen and don’t be quick to judge. Offer advice based on your own experiences and what you have learned as an adult. Can we guarantee it will be the best we can offer? No, all we can do is hope we said the right thing at the right time.
Teaching what is right and wrong can mean a lot of things to different people. However, giving a child a moral compass or ideals that define character are really important. When they leave our home, and embark on their own journey we, as parents, want to be confident our kids will live a life that not only we can be proud of but them also. We can be the example of what a stable relationship looks like. We can be the example of how to treat others with respect. We can be the example of how to pick yourself up when life slams you to the ground. Doing these things are not easy because we are flawed human beings. We are born into a world that is rife with temptation. Being the best example all the time is, in my opinion, virtually impossible. Outside of Jesus there has never been a perfect man or woman.
We have to allow a child be who they are. Boxing them in and being over protective is not the way to go. I know from my own experiences that children must be allowed to grow. I am not stating to let them run free without supervision or advice, but let them explore different areas of who they are. Allow them to play a sport, learn an instrument, or even go out of town on supervised trips to other parts of the country or world. A well-rounded human being I believe is what most good parents want for their child. When my kids leave the proverbial nest, I want them to respect others and their beliefs and be as non-judgmental as possible. As parents, we have our own personal biases, which we hope not to pass on to our children. Its nearly unfeasible to be non-biased or judgmental. I hope my kids will at least recognize when they are being biased and have an open mind.
Instilling the value of an education in a child is important. As an educator in an urban district with high poverty, I see children struggle with obtaining an education or understanding its importance. In short, I must state that learning opens a child’s mind to new possibilities. It removes clouds of ignorance and allows a child to explore the world. Books stimulate the imagination and allow them to travel to other places real and imagined. As parents, we must exhibit thru our actions that we value learning. Create a home that is filled with books and if that isn’t feasible take them to the library as often as possible. Read to them at night and ask questions about homework. Show your children that you are concerned about their education. I have managed way too many parent teacher conferences where only 20 percent of the school’s parents show up. Even if your education is on hold, please allow your children the opportunity to find love for learning. It will only benefit their future.
In closing, please remember that children are not perfect and will make mistakes in their childhood and adults lives. Hold them accountable for their actions but always to temper it with advice on how to avoid the same pitfalls in the future. Don’t ever give up on them and don’t use the tongue to belittle but to uplift. Always be there on the darkest nights and be ready to celebrate during the sunny days. Finally, remember to have fun with them while they are children because when they leave the nest those foundational years will never come again. I wish you luck on your parenting journey and thanks for reading.