Monday, June 16, 2014

A Parent with No Regrets

Yesterday was Father’s Day here in the States, a day where children, no matter their age, made calls, sent cards, and gave small gifts as tokens to express their love to the man who raised them. It’s a day for barbecues in the backyard and picnics in the park. On Mother’s Day, the ladies are taken out to dinner, so that someone else gets to pamper them for a change but on Father’s Day, men have to man the grill. That’s okay, however, because we don’t like other people touching our grill. That is our domain.

Besides enjoying being surrounded by our family, Father’s Day is also the day dads look back and do a little soul searching about the job we have done so far in guiding our children through the confusion called Life. I’m sure it’s the same for mothers on their special day, as well. For children, we’re just celebrating the fact that our parents never killed us, even though we probably deserved it.

I think it’s impossible for any parent not to have some regrets about those growing up years. We wish we had spent more time with them or took more vacations. Not major regrets, but that desire to have done just a little bit more or to have had more time. There never seems to be enough time and children are adults having their own children before we are ready for it.

Those, however, are not the regrets I’m referring to. I’m talking about when a parent has the regrets where they look at their child and realize “Oh my god, I raised a dipshit!” Or asshole. Or idiot. Or–well, I’m sure you get the picture. They realize that they made some major mistakes in the upbringing of their offspring and the rest of us suddenly hope they don’t reproduce. We’ve all seen the results of this type of parenting, those regrets that walk around Walmart, usually barely dressed and needing a bath or at least hosed down. You wonder where their parents went wrong until you actually see the parents and then you realize the problem probably goes back generations. This family tree needs to simply be uprooted and fed into the wood chipper.

What some people have failed to grasp is that once you finish doing the nasty in the backseat of that car their parents are paying for, the possibility of a child being produced is a great possibility. It doesn’t matter whether you are ready for it or even if you wanted a child. It is now your fulltime job and the focus for the rest of your life. And don’t listen to those people who say it ends when they turn eighteen. Being a parent doesn’t end until your body is decomposing in the ground somewhere. Hopefully, it gets a little bit easier when they turn into adults and that is when you start to take inventory of your parenting skills and discovering your regrets.

As I looked back over 25 years of parenting, I was grateful that I had none of those major regrets. Oh, my children are not perfect, don’t get me wrong. How could they be with a Mess of a father? However, they are pretty damn close to perfect and that I can live with. I am proud of the adults they have become and the paths they have chosen. They still frustrate me now and again, but that’s my parenting control taking over, trying to force them into what I want of them even if it’s for an hour. That’s a flaw of mine, not them.

So, what did I teach them to make them adults I am proud to say are my children? Allow me to share a few tidbits.

Family comes first. I don’t care what it is or what time of night or day they call. When your family needs you, you drop everything and rally the troops. And family isn’t always blood. It doesn’t matter if you agree with their choices in career or lifestyle or even partners. Family is family and you support them no matter what and against any who attack.

Be responsible. Take care of yourself and your family. Don’t rely on others or the government. Don’t be afraid to work long hours or two jobs if you need to in order to meet your obligations. A big problem in America is that people are afraid of honest work and of getting dirty. No job is beneath you if it supports your family.

Own your mistakes. If you screw up, say so, and then do what you have to do to make it right. Everyone makes mistakes, but too many try to pass the blame to someone else.

Ignore the bullshit. My children have a sixth sense, that of a bullshit detector. They know when someone is so full of themselves that it smells better inside a Port-o-Potty at a week-long event. They know to avoid the drama that some people seem to thrive on and they know not to create it.

Stand by Your Convictions. The world is full of people compromising. Don’t compromise your principles. Believe enough in what you hold dear to stand and fight for it. If you won’t defend it, why should anyone else.

Show compassion and be generous. These go together because I honestly believe you cannot have one without the other. Generous doesn’t mean money, necessarily. It could be your time or a listening ear or an empty couch. The world needs more compassion, people with tender hearts who feel for others in need.

Don’t be a dick. Yes, I could have said jerk or idiot, but this shows greater passion. Don’t be mean or cruel. Be humble and sensitive. The world doesn’t need more idiots rushing around belittling people while they themselves are trying to feel superior to everyone else. Be confident without being cocky.

And finally, have fun. No one gets out of this life alive. Enjoy every minute of every day. As long as whatever you are doing isn’t hurting anyone else and you can take care of your family, do what makes you happy, because you only get one shot at it.

There are more tidbits, of course, but this is a blog post and not a book. My children have followed these little morsels of fatherly wisdom and each has made me a parent without regrets. I hope you can say the same.

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