By Marcus Brown
We are born and some of us are blessed to hold one of the oldest and most sacred jobs in the world. Parenting is the most important endeavor in the world. It literally connects the hopes and goals of the past with the future. It is also one of the most diverse things we as humans do. Everyone will define it as something different and prioritize the duties in different ways. If you speak with 100 different parents you will get 100 different definitions of what a good parent is.
I have been a father for almost 25 years and my definition and priorities have changed countless times. Care, love, support, inspiration teaching, discipline make up the recipe of good parenting. As a young father, I had no idea of all the intricate, subtle, and complex parts of my duties as a parent would encompass. I tried using my parents’ example as a blue print but there is no map for good parenting. It is a job that changes and requires creativity, critical thinking and reflection.
Even talking with my wife, we vary on how this task is to be done but we agree it has to be done carefully and with deep thought. I do not claim to be a great authority on the topic but I do claim to have tried to do the best I could in helping raise my children. There is wisdom I can share with others about the difficulties and successes… I do not put these in any particular order and you the reader must decide for yourself the relevance of each.
1. Love is the most important component of parenting but love by itself is not enough… How one defines love is very important also. Love is giving support to your children but also allowing them to be challenged and withdrawing that support so they can grow. You don’t want your child to fall but they have to learn to get up from a fall. You have to take off the training wheels and let them ride without your help for them to grow… If you support them too much they do not grow and gain self-confidence. Love is protecting your child but also allowing them to experience the real world. No one wants their child to face a broken heart but it is part of life and shielding them from all hurts physical, emotional, psychological prevents them from getting stronger and learning how to deal with issues.
2. Every child is different. Every child has different needs. Every child learns differently. Every child will interpret the world, love, and even themselves differently. Some children will not play with the stove when told not to while others will only learn once they have burned themselves. Try as hard as you can to treat your children fairly but children will find something or interpret an incident as different. Try as hard as you can, you cannot always be there to fill all of your child’s needs and wants. You try to raise them to deal with this also and develop independence. As a reflective parent, there will be regrets but you have to learn from it. I think about what I wanted my parents to do differently and also find myself understanding their decisions from going through parenting.
3. Parenting does not end when you child reaches eighteen. Advice, loans, compliments, criticism continue to be obligations. Parents do not get vacations even when children leave your home you still worry about them.
Our ultimate goal as parents is to help the next generation be better than us. We want them to have more. We want them to be smarter. We want them to find joy and comfort. We want them to have a spiritual, ethical, and moral standing that helps them move through world and society in peace. We try to create these better humans by giving them truth about the world in a way they can digest it. We don’t tell our three year old the hard truths about life and death but we tell our twenty year old that every day is a struggle to keep moving forward. We want them to be happy but continuous happiness is a form of insanity. We try to teach them that comfort is more important in the long run and life’s daily and occasional struggles will make happiness vary. It is a hard lesson that even some adults never understand. There will always be bills to pay. There will always be changes some good, some bad. There will always be challenges to face. There will always be a way to grow and get better.
Parenting is the job of trying to make better humans at the same time we try to make ourselves better to be an example for the next generation.
Marcus Brown has lived and taught in the Lansing for over 20 years. Marcus and Chitra Pulliam (his wife) used retirement money to found the Village Summit. A community center that provides free lunch, coats, tutoring, books, gardening and other resources and enrichment to children and families... "We need critical and creative education; reading between lines and thinking outside the box; love should not be a four letter word in schools."
This was printed in the December 25, 2016 - January 7, 2017 edition.