“As my fathers planted for me, so do I plant for my children” (The Talmud).
ALL OF US HAVE HAD PARENTS (WHETHER KNOWN TO US OR NOT), AND MOST OF US WILL HAVE BECOME PARENTS BEFORE OUR LIVES ARE OVER. Most of us, therefore, will serve as some sort of bridge between the past generations and those of the future. In our finer moments, what we want is to be a worthy bridge: we want to pass along to our children the best of the parenting that we received.
Doing this is not easy. Parenting is one of the most difficult things any human being ever attempted. And having been told of its difficulty, we may have tried to learn how to do it before we had children, so that when we did have them, we’d know what to do. Yet parenting is a thing mostly learned by doing it. Just as our parents did, we find that we have to learn by trial and error.
Those who end up being good parents are those who are open to feedback, correction, and learning while the process is going on. It takes a commitment to being better parents as time goes by, always being eager to learn anything new that can help us improve. But not only that, good parents are those who realize that the clock is ticking. The skill must be learned as we do it, yet we don’t have an unlimited amount of time to get the hang of it. Our children are growing older every day, and our parenting opportunities are getting fewer.
Many modern parents would do better if we quit trying to use our children as adornments to our own egos and lifestyles and started seeing ourselves as expendable commodities meant to be used up for our kids’ benefit. “Parents are,” as Peter Ustinov said, “the bones on which children cut their teeth.” If we’re so full of ourselves that we can’t see the sense in that, then we’ve got a ways to go before graduating from parent school. Parents must be willing to spend and be spent.
The parent-child relationship is one of life’s primary learning laboratories. It has important things to teach us about the rights and wrongs of human relationships, and about what the good life is and isn’t. It’s worth giving every ounce of the very best effort within us.
“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around — and why his parents will always wave back” (William D. Tammeus).