parenting (no one ever seems to get it right)

 

 

For what it’s worth, I would like to share something which I have been discussing with a relative of mine.

He has had issues with his son, who is a young adult.

They started when his son was a teenager. Prior to that, their relationship was hunky dory.

Sound familiar? It goes without saying that parent-child issues often arise during adolescence.

My relative has often told me that he did not have a good relationship with his own father. He felt that his father was not a good parent.

His son was born when he and his wife were approaching middle age. They were overjoyed to become parents.

He couldn’t spend enough time with his son. Every spare moment when he was home. He doted on his son.

He was determined to show what a good parent he could be. He was determined to be the father that he himself had never had.

In retrospect, my friend realizes, feels, that he tried too hard; it seems that way to him now.

He did not give his son enough “space,” so to speak. He thinks some of his son’s resentment towards him, which took him by surprise, might have been his son’s way of saying something that the son probably was not consciously aware of and would not have been able, in any case, to articulate: give me space; let me breathe.

To grow and develop on his own.

Recollecting his own experience as a son, with his neglectful and unsensitive father, my relative realizes that he was given a lot of space as a child, that his parents did not interfere, participate in, meddle with, take part in many of his childhood activities, and that, on balance, this was a good thing. He was able to play, daydream, think for himself, make friends, develop interests and pastimes, etc. on his own.

What do I think this story illustrates, one might ask. What’s the point?

I think one can conclude – not that my relative has been a bad parent, and not that he did not have legitimate grievances in the case of his own father — but that every parent makes mistakes (not just minor ones).

Every parent fails.

We all – us parents, that is – screw up. No matter how hard we try, we all seem to make major mistakes in child rearing. There is no right way to do it. No wonder children get angry with their parents as they grow older. There are no perfect parents. Maybe Ward and June Cleaver. In real life, there is no such thing.

And, there are no foolproof parenting strategies. The child rearing experts come and go. Their opinions are all over the map.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     December 2016

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
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