So you wanted to be a parent?

baby girlI was watching a TV show tonight, and one of the characters said, “I really want to be a dad.”  That line got me thinking.

It’s been 33 years since I became a dad.  I don’t remember ever thinking “I really want to be a dad.”  I’m pretty sure I was just caught up in the journey of growing up and becoming a dad was a natural step in the process.  Now, after having our first kid, I definitely remember thinking, “Ok, I can do this again.”  That’s really about it.

It wasn’t until Chris and Corey began to carry on conversations and we could really interact as father and sons, that I started to embrace my identity as “dad”.  Then, there was no turning back.

Back to the TV show.  Why would anybody want to be a dad?  Or a mom?  It is not uncommon to hear of women who dream of becoming mothers…even some who feel they will not be complete or whole unless they have a child.  I have talked to men who desperately want to be dads…to have their manhood affirmed or to further the family line.

Truth is, most people don’t give enough thought to being parents.  What’s the goal of being a parent? To raise good, healthy, self-sufficient, productive, members of society?  The world could definitely use a few more of those kinds of kids!  And the world also its fair share of parents who are convinced their way of raising those kinds of kids is the “right” way to raise those kinds of kids…and they freely dispense advice to anybody in their way.

But I’m not talking about parenting styles or choices or strategies.  I’ll leave that to the new generation of know-it-alls.  They’ll never be as smart as my generation of know-it-alls, anyway.  No.  I’m talking about something deeper.  Something more primary.  When I asked “What’s the goal of being a parent?”, I wasn’t asking anything about the how of parenting.  I was asking about the why of parenting.

Did you approach the decision of becoming a parent, because you were lacking something?  Did you pursue becoming a mom or a dad, because you were searching for meaning or purpose or to fill a void?  Were you trying to make a statement or prove something to yourself or somebody else?  Were you trying to make your spouse happy or please your parents?  Did your self-esteem need an injection of significance or worth?

The reality is most parents would never admit to those kinds of unhealthy motivations for entering into parenthood, because most parents never seriously considered their motivation in the first place.  Consequently, many parents either fly by the seat of the pants in the way they parent… or they are unknowingly driven by the unhealthy motivation in their parenting choices…

  • In how they control their children (foods, schedules, habits, friendships, moral codes)
  • The kind of image their children are projecting
  • The choice of activities their children participate in
  • In how their kid(s) stack up against other kids
  • In the successes their kids experience
  • In how well the failures of their kids are excused

Look, this is not stone-throwing.  All of us who are parents have to choose the path on which we will lead our kids.  Parents need to be careful not to judge the style and choices of others, even while we are convinced our own way is superior (or else we wouldn’t do it that way, right?)  But I am advocating for something deeper.  For all of us.

Examine your motives.  What is it YOU are trying to get out of being a parent?  Be deeply introspective and ruthlessly honest with yourself.  This is harsh and you may not agree, but our kids were not designed to provide us with anything.  There is no doubt we get a lot of unexpected and undeserved perks (like love and companionship and a personal work detail and a daily sense of purpose).  But ultimately, they are not here for us.

We are here for them.

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3 thoughts on “So you wanted to be a parent?

  1. Well said, Mike. Children are not accessories! A few generations ago- children were assets to a family farm in the form of labor. Not so now. We are raising people that have to negotiate a world that’s changing fast. Having a baby is easy. Raising a person is hard. Figuring out naps is easy. Dealing with bullying, terrorism, consumerism, illness is hard. Don’t have a baby unless you want to raise a person. 🙂

  2. Definitely have missed your wonderful words of wisdom, Abbott. I was coerced into having my two babies, but I don’t regret a single moment. I grew as a person as they grew. I didn’t do everything right but I did as well as I knew how.

  3. Our first kid was spontaneous, BUT we knew what we were doing to have that kid.
    I can ONLY guide that human by example.
    I can only discipline by the rules I live by and not make up new ones to attempt to make my kid perfect.
    We had a second kid in hopes to have a boy, to balance our household. Now we work twice as hard to lead by example because boys and girls are polar opposites.

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