15 March 2007

The Odd Job of Parenting

Tomorrow my youngest turns 18 and next week my daughter is 20. Even though I'm only 46, I have 38 years of experience as a parent (you just add up the ages of your children to calculate years of experience, right?).

I've learned a few things about parenting. I've learned to kiss them on the head when I'm confused by them or frustrated by them or delighted with them. This seems to work on 18 month old children and 18 year old children alike. I've learned to call them "precious children," as a reminder to me and to them. And I've changed my mind about my job as a parent.

When these two little people came into the world, I actually thought it was my job to help turn them into certain kind of people. A couple of decades later, I'm come around to the opinion that my job is very different.

Anyone with children is amazed by what distinct personalities they are. They come into the world at a particular trajectory, seemingly destined to be a particular somebody, and it is not exactly clear that a parent can do much about it. Well, other than make them feel self-conscious or guilty about who they are.

So, how has this realization changed my notion of what it means to be a parent? Rather than try to change or shape who they are, I see my job as helping them to figure out how to succeed, how to navigate life, given that they are who they are. As we stand beside each other, trying to figure this out, I learn one more thing; they usually have a better idea than me about how to do that.

Parenting. It's an odd job and after 20 years I still don't know where I'm supposed to pick up my paycheck.


Chrlane said...

LOL!I don't think it goes that way. You can't count extra for the overlap, except in gray hairs. :)

Ron Davison said...

I suspect that you don't have children else you may agree that you can, indeed, just sum their ages to calculate the years spent parenting.

soccer mom in denial said...

Thanks for telling me about this post! It is always a relief to hear from parents who have made it to the other side. And I like how you linked to your daughter's blog.

Your sentiments remind me of one of my favorite writings about children. I included it here: