Monday, March 26, 2007

The Parenting Trap

I haven't put much thought into this one as it was inspired just this morning by two fellow bloggers: TK and Chez. Chez's (?) blog about his relationship with his wife inspired TK's blog about his relationship with his parents which, naturally, inspired me to blog about my experience BEING a parent. It makes perfect sense once you slam your head onto your desk five or six times. Try it.

Let me recap for you real quick style. I have two daughters ages 11 and 9 that, as of two years ago, live with me full time. They came to live with myself and my fiance by way of a court decision involving their mother. I'll go into that some other time.

Prior to my daughters living with me, they visited with me every other weekend and on holidays. This is the way it was for several years. Needless to say, it took a bit of adjusting on my part to dealing with them on a daily basis. Not to mention the stress it put on, and continues to, my relationship with my fiance. She has never had kids before, and I only had them on weekends.

I'm going to skip delving into these aspects of our relationships in lieu of discussing the concept of parenthood. Again, I'll go into the former topic at a later time.

There are parents (and non parents) out there that will tell you that being a parent is all about self sacrifice. That now your entire reason for being is to provide for the care, and well being of this tiny creature that you brought screaming into this world. Forget about your own wants and needs, your dreams, your desires. All that takes a back seat to diapers, Underoo's, and college tuition. At one point in my life, I agreed with them

They're wrong. On some levels.

Through my daily dose of parenthood, and with an enlightened perspective on my own mothers maternal habits, and a much needed Chuck Norris style metaphorical roundhouse to the head from my fiance, I've come to a realization. Parenthood is not all about a constant nurturing, coddling, and protecting your child from the big bad world. It is in my opinion, the process of preparing your child for separation. The separation of them from you, their umbilical cord for the last 16 years (yeah, 16 , people). I've seen the folly of parents that continue to be the safety net for their children. Although I doubt you can rightfully refer to a 30 year old as a "child". Always being there to catch them when they fall, pick them back up, and put $20 in their pocket. It's the psychological equivalent of hamstringing someone.

For a while, I was hamstrung. I know this now, looking back at my early teenage years. My mother, recently come back into my life after a drug related absence to retake her parental duties. She was fantastic. She bought me whatever my brother and I wanted, made sure we had nice things, and a nice place to live. I never wanted for anything. Including motivation. Why should you work towards something when it can be handed to you if you whine long enough? Sure, I got a job when I was a teenager. Someone had to fund my underage drinking.

I think at some point she realized what she was doing was hurting me as much as it helped. Handouts became fewer and far between and rent was mandatory. She focused more on my independence and self sufficiency. For this I will be forever grateful.

Now, back to the chi'rens.

We (by that I mean my fiance and I) focus on teaching my daughters independence, and self sufficiency as a way of life. To be a strong, independent, and productive person. We've removed television from our home as an impetus for reading, discussion, and creativity. On a side note, I cannot begin to tell you what a boon to my life my she (Kristine) has been. There are people in this world that just have a way of touching your life in such a manner as to expose your previous existence as inconsequential, and empty. Kristine is the epitome of this. I weep for the emptiness and banality of my life prior to meeting her. If not for her, I would have lost all hope for a better life. Not just for myself, but for my daughters. I marvel at the changes and progress they have made since knowing her.

There is, however, another part of parenthood that had eluded me up to a point. For a long time, I had lost myself in the endeavor of parenthood. I was existing only to continue my existence so that I could provide for my daughters. The quality of my life was non evident. I simply continued to draw breath so that I might continue to draw a paycheck. What was I doing? What is the point of any of this? Maybe I should just end it now, I mean, I'm insured so I'm worth more them dead than alive, right? These were thoughts I entertained on a regular basis. Then I met Kristine. She has taught me the value of expanding my own horizons, encouraged my dreams, and at the same time kept me grounded and sane.

Yes, a parent can and should be selfish from time to time. Your children don't own you, and you don't own them. Both are there for the mutual enrichment of the life of the other. How can you teach your child about the wide world outside of your home when you are a burnt out husk of a person? What joy can you take in teaching them, when you haven't felt joy in your own life? Parents are the windows through which a child sees the world. What kind of world view will they have if the window is clouded with sorrow, and regret. Worse, what if there is nothing outside the window? What if all your child sees is a barren existence spent slaving away at thankless jobs and demeaning relationships?

A parent owes it to themselves and their children to be the person they want their child to be, not just preach to them the virtues of being worldly and good. Too many parents see their children as a means to correct the mistakes their own parents made and are at peace with that. Teach them to be more by being more yourself.

Alright, I'm spent. If you have any issues with the comments or opinions expressed by the auther of this blog, you may leave your comments at the sound of the beep..................................


TK said...

I'm enjoying this weird, family-issues, soul-baring chain of blogging that started today. It's bizarre, but ultimately fascinating.

What I find perhaps the most interesting is that you learned one of the most important lessons about parenthood from someone who is not a parent. I love that. In fact, it gives me some hope. Because to be honest, one of the things I fear about parenthood is, quite simply - what if I suck at it? I mean, I've raised two pretty good dogs, but what kind of experience is THAT?

While I know there is more to it than that, it's nice to be reminded that no one is ever really "ready" for parenthood. And while those who focus on not repeating their parents' mistakes are correct in that thinking, there is more to it than that, as well.

Anyway, I'm babbling. Great post... if more parents thought about parenting like you do, we wouldn't have so many damn brats running around. Thank you.

Manny said...

No, thank you TK for inspiring this.

Chez said...

Ah, the virtual naked-men drum circle.

It's great that you've actually taken time to think through exactly what kind of parent you'd like to be, and what kind of values you hope to instill in your children; a lot of parents don't.

The realization that your own parents made mistakes is a tough one to come to, but it's completely necessary -- and only an adult can understand that those mistakes usually don't mean they were bad people, or even bad parents.

Glad you've finally found somebody to fulfills you as thoroughly as your fiancee -- I know what a difference that makes.

slouchmonkey said...

Nice. All you guys are in my wife is leaving tomorrow for Florida, (consequently, I don't do so well when she's away), we've had a revolving consversation about parenthood as I believe we're going to be embarking on it, shortly and parents, my wife and I regularly talk about those strange people who put us here in the first place.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Nice post, Manny. I too am enjoying the whole "round robin" thing that's going on today.

To be honest, I'm not a parent and I have no aspirations of ever being one. However, given all the sarcasm we through around on a regular basis, it's nice learning about other aspects of your guys' lives.

I still don't fully fathom the whole parenting thing, but maybe that's because I passed out after the 3d time I smashed my head into the table.

Don't worry, I'm gonna try to finish it out after all the bleeding stops and the vision in my right eye returns - just for you, my man.