“Be the parent today that you want your kids to remember tomorrow.” ~Anonymous
We hear all this talk about living for today, about being in the moment, about doing what we want right now because tomorrow is never promised to us. But, as a parent that’s not quite the way I view life. For me it’s about making sure the future is as hospitable place for my children as it can be, and that my children are as prepared to survive in that future as they can be.
I’m what you might call an “involved” parent. I’m the one who is at the school whenever there is a small issue, whenever there is a big issue, or just because it’s a Tuesday sometimes. I’ve been known to bring another sandwich because I was worried the first sandwich wasn’t as fresh by lunch time as it should have been.
But I don’t think I’m an overly involved parent. I don’t take my children to school because I don’t trust the bus system, or anything like that. I’m a concerned parent because I know that what happens to my children right now can have a huge effect on how they envision their own future, and on how the world sees them. I believe in the “teach a kid to fish” philosophy.
So I lead by example. When my kids want something that they can get themselves I teach them how to get it. When my kids need to learn a skill in order to be successful I teach them that skill so they can succeed. I don’t just do things for them because it’s expedient. I don’t just let them out of things because I know it will take time and effort for me to show them how to do it themselves.
Case in point: the fight over making the bed. It is tough for Madeline to make her bed by herself, but instead of throwing up my hands and giving in to her pleas for me to do it instead, I have her help me make it. Then I show her every step along the way what I’m doing so she will understand and work on it. Now she can make her own bed most mornings without supervision, and most mid-mornings, when I go into her room I smile because I know that the fight was worth it.
The future won’t be easy for either of them. Deep down in my soul, as their father, I know it, because the future isn’t easy for anyone. But also because my children deal with issues that might cause problems for them going ahead. I don’t focus on those problems, though. I focus instead on the gifts they do have, on their talents, on their will to succeed, and on their tenacity. That’s one thing I hope I’m doing a good job teaching them, the fortitude to forge ahead when the deck is stacked against you, the strength to persevere instead of giving up.
Even saying that, though, I know that these kids can frustrate me to no end. They whine, they cajole, and they are sometimes rude, but I can’t let that make me react, to change the way I deal with my own brand of parenting. It’s how they are programmed to get their way, and it would work if I weren’t so doggedly determined to make the future as bright for them as I can. I know that being lazy, that sitting back and hoping things come to them instead of going out and making it happen, can be ultimately devastating.
That’s why I try my best to remember that tomorrow isn’t promised, but it’s better to be prepared for possibility than to live just for what’s happening right now. In parenting, and in life.