I’ve come to think that most parents feel judged in some respect–that our mistakes will cost our child a happy life, or that we’ll overlook some tiny detail that will keep them out of Harvard and ruin their lives forever.
I realize these worries are more about my personal insecurities than The Dude. He’s an awesome human being. So I’ll do us both a favor and focus my energy on nurturing that rather than worry about my parental image.
I will not worry about looking like an authority figure to anyone other than The Dude. We are friend-like, but the Dude is not my friend. He is my son, and the distinction is abundantly clear to both of us. It’s like the first down marker at a live football game. Just because you can’t see the yellow line from TV, it doesn’t mean we don’t where it is.
I will not worry about appearing too permissive. I’m willing to give The Dude some space to make his own decisions, and yes, his own mistakes. The Dude shows better judgment than most adults I know. We only punish for acts of intentional stupidity and willful disrespect, and create rules only where freedoms have been abused. Interestingly, we rarely have need to. Life tends to provide suitable consequences of its own.
I will not worry that I don’t push The Dude enough. Our job is to give him the resources he needs, but it is up to him to make use of them. He will have to decide what is important and will need to develop the fortitude to move a boulders on his own. When he succeeds, he does so because it was his choice. It’s the best reward we can give him, although I bake a mean celebratory brownie.
The Dude is who his is, and will be who he will be. His path is not going to look like mine or my husband’s, and that is scary. He’s hurtling into the dark at warp speed, and I don’t know what the terrain looks like. He wants me to tell him what to expect and I can’t. I can’t tell him which turns to take or what obstacles he might encounter. All I can do is tell him that I know that he is capable of handling what comes at him because he already has, and that no one will cheer harder for him than his Dad and I will.
So while I will worry about what the world will throw at him, I don’t worry about him at all. The Dude is not perfect, but I wouldn’t change a thing about him. Okay, that’s not true. His bedroom is a disaster area, and I won’t even discuss that bathroom, but I won’t worry about that, either. There is only so much that a parent can control.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Worry” by Matt Gibson © 2012 Creative Commons