Friday, June 04, 2004

License to Parent

I haven’t written much in the last year. I know. I want to write and get everything off my chest but sometimes talking about a situation makes it more real. Honestly, I haven’t wanted much of reality to intrude on my life of late and suffice it to say that 2003 was the worst year of my life, bar none. A lot happened and unfortunately I don’t want to get into all of it for the aforementioned reason. It’s real enough, putting in on paper won’t make much difference and I have neither the time nor the inclination to chronicle the details of my life in the last 18 months.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the whole parenting thing lately and something I overheard last Saturday night just lit a spark in me and I feel the need to get it off my chest. I guess it hit home because what it all boils down to is selfishness.

Let’s start with what I overheard.

“I wouldn’t let my kids play any sports because I didn’t want to give up my Saturdays and here I am now that they’re grown working the games.”

I was quite astounded.

Enough so that I had to make sure I didn’t stare this woman down with daggers coming out of my eyes because it is definitely what I was thinking. What kind of Mother doesn’t let her children play sports because she doesn’t want to give up her Saturdays? I am not a parent yet, partially because I know that to be the “right” kind of parent one must always put their children first—parents must make sacrifices for their children. I’m not talking the life or death kind, although sometimes those are called for. I’m simply talking about giving up certain material things, or personal time of your own for the greater good of your child.

How is being selfish going to help your child? What is that teaching them? Life is hard and you can’t always get what you want, thank you Mick Jagger. Observing a selfish parent might lead one into thinking that one can actually do whatever it is one wants to do whenever one wants to do it. However, recognizing that selfishness leads to resentment, not only on the part of the child but also on the part of the spouse of the child once the child is an adult. Oops, that was a bit telling wasn’t it?

Part Deux—the other part—the part that hits closer to home.

When I observe the life of my husband I am always amazed he turned out as wonderfully as he did. He was definitely lacking both direction and constructive discipline. However, the thing that gets me is the one overriding quality both of his parents possessed in spades: selfishness. I love his Mom and Dad because they are a part of him but let me qualify that with I’ve never met more selfish people in my entire life.

To this day his Mother is still quite self-obsessed. His Dad has mellowed with age and is a little better but as of this moment no one on his Dad’s side of the family wants anything to do with me. And his Mom and step-dad are generous of heart with well-meaning intentions but still completely incapable of acting like responsible adults when it comes to planning anything ahead of say five minutes. Trying to get them to organize and plan ANYTHING from Thanksgiving holidays to what time everyone will eat dinner is impossible. They don’t think ahead and therefore they inconvenience everyone all the time.

I could go on and on with example after example about their selfishness and how they always put their own needs ahead of the needs of their son but I don’t want to because it makes me ill when I think about it for too long. It is not something I will ever understand. The sad part about all of it is I wouldn’t want them anywhere near my own children. It’s part of the reason we have not started a family. I wouldn’t want that kind of influence on their young lives.

The Car Connection

To legally drive a car you have to take both a written and a driving test. I have no problem with this legality it’s to ensure the safety of yourself and the other drivers on the road. You must learn to obey traffic laws, signs, have an understanding of the “rules of the road” so-to-speak and you must have liability insurance to cover any damages in the event of an accident. All of this just to drive a car. Yet anyone, regardless of his or her background or capabilities, can become a parent.

What about those who bring a child into the world and leave him or her to fend for themselves? The way I see it a parent is responsible for gently introducing a child into the world, teaching him or her right from wrong and for providing, to the best of their ability, a nurturing, loving and caring atmosphere. Yes, I know there are people for whom the best of their ability is still, in my opinion, somewhat substandard. I cannot account or speak for those circumstances. I am speaking of my husband’s family. A mother with a master’s degree in counseling should know better.

Am I suggesting we police sex, marriage, and procreation? Hell, no! I am exceedingly liberal on those issues. I simply find it ironic that’s all.


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