Most parent bloggers and speakers come across – with intention – as experts. I’ve always claimed to be a layman dad blogger. I write from the view that I am doing my best but I make mistakes along the way. Recently, I feel those mistakes have come back to bite me in the a**. I want to share them so others may learn and, perhaps, not make the same mistake. Often, in 20-20 hindsight, it’s easy to see the mistake, but in-the-moment we usually try to make the best decision.
Let’s be clear. There are no perfect people and there are no perfect parents. Most of us (parents) try and do the best. The parent that abuses a child is himself or herself self-destructive, and is not going to read this column or even acknowledge their shortcomings. It’s ironic that the older I become the more willing I am to admit my faults and HOW LITTLE I ACTUALLY KNOW. I’m fond of saying that, “the only good thing about getting older is maybe I’m getting better” – implying at how I handle people and situations. So, for instance, when I get cut off on the road, I simply shrug now. Yes, these two seem to contradict themselves, but they can co-exist.
But, when it comes to my parenting I am reaping some of the rewards and pain, perhaps, of how I raised my children. I liked to play the martyr of being a single parent but that’s simply the same as my initials – B.S. My deck was pretty full and I had few problems. But, when I’m truly honest I see how hard it is for other single parents or other couples. I have married (couple) friends with two children, both of whom have serious learning disabilities. The consequence is they’ve had to sacrifice now and for the rest of their lives to help equip their boys to survive. Every day is a struggle and every night is one of worrying about the future (for them).
On the latter point, I do share some commonality with them in that I do worry considerably about my boys’ futures.
I also believe that the BEST parents in the world can end up with “lousy” kids and the WORST parents in the world can end up with the most wonderful kids. Luck does play a part in it, in spite of our desire to believe we can make a significant difference (in our kids’ lives).
My biggest mistake? I forgot the word, NO. I raised my boys without enforcing serious obligations in the house and later, in the outside world. I gave in and allowed my boys to manipulate me and I, deep inside, wanted to make their lives as easy as possible to compensate for the loss of their mother (another story).
An obvious mistake resulting from this is that, to some degree, I spoiled my boys. We hear the word “entitlement” a great deal about the current (young) generation and I spoiled and entitled my boys. By the time I re-married, my second wife was unable to un-do the damage or convince me to do otherwise. After all, what did she know? She didn’t have any children.
She went along with my authority because I used that fact that I was their biological parent and I’d done a pretty good job so far (she got in their lives when they were still a few years from their teens).
The old cliché that the older the kid, the bigger the problems came true and many of my wife’s ideas were solid so another mistake I made was to NOT listen to her and to think I knew it all.
I know nothing is what I’ve come to believe. I only know what I’m going to eat for breakfast.
Very soon, we will be empty nesters starting a new life in a different state. Our boys will be elsewhere. They are adults now and it’s time to let them live their lives without our interference. Yes, we’re paying for our younger son’s college but we are now demanding that he get a job and pay for his own “entertainment” and “extras.”
I know I did a few things right so this isn’t a beat-up-on-myself piece. What mistakes did you make? What did you do right? Please share…