As a parent, I’m pretty much just guessing. There really is no other way to put it. I’m guessing. My approach to raising my son, how I handle things, it’s all just one big guessathon. I have no idea what I’m doing. I really don’t. I’m just making it up as I go and hoping for the best. I don’t have a model to follow. I don’t know what good looks like. I’m working off of imagination not example or exposure.
" It’s my job to keep him in the sun not raise him in my shadow." Beautiful words worth remembering. We ACOA certainly have examples of how not to parent as we attempt to move through our own suffocating haze of justifiable resentment. Your insight/awareness and determination to provide your son with loving guidance without guilt is a great gift- for you both.
From everything you've written about your relationship with your son I can say with total confidence that you are a marvelous Dad. Very much like my own father who even after all these years now without him here left a force field of high self esteem that protects me from any and all adversaries that have and continue to come my way. And btw, you're not supposed to know exactly what to do.
My dad was an alcoholic and hated his job. He was an accountant at a railroad for 25 years, right out of highschool. He was fired because he refused to get his accounting designation. He had 25 years to get it, but didn't. Sort of "quiet quitting" I guess. But he quit in every other way too - quit being a husband, quit being a father, quit paying child support. The few times I did see him he was only happy when he was drinking or playing his guitar.
I cannot tell you how much joy these introspective pieces are to read. It gives me such comfort to know that there are men out there trying to be the best human beings and fathers that they can be. I completely missed out on the "father lottery", but others didn't, and that is so good to know.
Agreed 100% and wonderfully written. Though have you thought about considering what impact your grandfather (or grandmother) might have had on your dad in *his* upbringing?
I love the language you have for that. I wish I had it in the past. People used to always say what a good job I did with my kids, but I didn’t want the credit. I gave them a good foundation, but they did what they did with it. Parenting is uncertain at best.
As the child in my family designated as “the smart one”, any grade less than an A was greeted with, ‘well there’s room for improvement”, but only for me, not my siblings. Believe me, the way you’re handling it is a world of improvement. You’ve navigated parenting so well…not perfectly, bot so well.
Grateful for your beautiful words and sharing your wise compass with us. Amen to the internal locus of control for the kids. ❤️
You're doing it right.
Your thoughtful way of raising your son is already successful, just ongoing. I think not having good role models of parenting in your life left you anxious not to repeat the mistakes made. It harmed you, you don't want to repeat that scenario, but the fact you took that big step of reviewing your approach as a parent struck a chord in me and my odd experiences. I swore my kids would not grow up in chaos or being invisible. I'm in my 70s now, they've turned out great. No relationship with a sibling who holds on to old ways. I've made peace with that. Peace is better. Be confident that what you're doing is wonderful.
Raising children is a total crapshoot. You can have a PhD in child and still flub it. We all fly by the seat of our pants & anyone who says differently is lying to a certain extent. As a child of an alcoholic & co-dependent, with ADHD, I'd say you're doing pretty well given your own role models (which, frankly, were more like models of what NOT to do). You will not find out how well or poorly you did until much later, if ever. Even then, if they live to that point, managed to feed, clothe, and house themselves, and - icing on the cake - find a life partner, you can pretty much figure you *might* have done well.
Kudos, my friend, and support & encouragement for the rest of your journey. It's long, fraught with pitfalls, but ultimately one of the most adventurous things I've ever done in my life. We'll see how it turns out. :D
Again, this was awesome. You truly are doing good parenting here ❤️. I have two comments: 1) I have learned (the hard way) if you don’t know what to say to your kid in a situation like yours, just say “what do you think? ”. It’s not judgy and you kinda learn what they are thinking about it. And 2) I don’t know your dad, and I am not an alcoholic but I am a lawyer and I have been paralyzed by job choices/decisions. He is/was afraid. We are all terrified. Of being frauds, being found out we are not as smart as we think we are.
Your relationship with your father is something beyond my experience so I’m not criticizing your reaction to his not looking for another job. But that generation didn’t really change jobs much. I guess they figured they were lucky to have one and didn’t want to risk not having one. My dad was a child of the Great Depression. He worked the same job for 43 years, with no pension. His dad worked for the railroad and worked the same job for 44 years (never missed a day of work in those 44 years!). Maybe your dad was of that era of not changing jobs. I’m not criticizing your interpretation because you had such a negative relationship with your dad and the alcoholism probably was a factor in his fear of change. That was just a thought that popped into my mind.
I love this. I've worked so hard to follow this commandment myself, though I've never voiced it as you have. My daughter excels in school. At 16 I rarely think about her grades because she is motivated within herself to do well.
Her older brother was not. His lack of motivation, on top of dealing with ADHD, which he did not want to treat with pills, made high school a challenge. I didn't get mad. It was frustrating for sure. He's a smart kid. He just wanted to do other things. All throughout those years I reiterated that what he did during these 4 years (well really 3) would dictate what opportunities would be available to him in the next 4 years.
He didn't have a lot of opportunities but he's making his own way. He's ambitious and he doesn't give up. He didn't do it the way I did it but he's finally on a good path forward. And he's content within himself. It's the best I could ask for.
Parenting isn't easy. My brother and I learned a lot about how not to parent from our own parents. It sounds like you did too. For me that's a good win coming out of a childhood that was far from ideal.
Thank you for this.
Bravo, Mike. As a non-parent who spent over 40 years working with college students, I think you’re doing a wonderful job.
My own very intelligent, very loving parents were overprotective. One of my sisters was naturally independent (“just like her aunt: she goes her own way”) but I had to figure out how to think for myself. We were, of course, expected to grow into responsible adults. There was one set of living grandparents but absolutely no manual. They simply did their best.
My father was a publication & my mother was a binge alcoholic so a marriage made in a bottle you could say. So I can completely relate to not remembering large chunks of my childhood & I left as soon as I could. I vowed to never be like them & fir the most feel I succeeded. I also had the mantra of making my son's independent of us while still giving them what they needed for security & growth. However that has its downside now we are old & need occasional help. Job too well done. Lol.
Anyway having read lots about how you relate to your son, I'd say you have the parenting job pretty well spot on.
As a non-parent, but former child, I approve this message! In my family growing up each child was completely different = 4xchallenge for ill-equipped parents! Looking back I was the only one who was OK with the parenting of the "one size fits all" model that was deployed, but I think that could be partly because I know now that I was neuro-diverse and had somewhat of my own internal compass which, as you have said, meant I "had some things in common" with the way my dominant parent operated, rather than my siblings fighting against the "system" all the time. To that end, one of the siblings repeated all the "mistakes" and was a fully dysfunctional parent with an equally dysfunctional co-parent; one sibling decided she wanted to be a different kind of parent & went out and attended parenting courses & hoovered up every recommended book they could find before embarking on consciously being the opposite of our parents; and 2 of us for accidental non-conscious choice reasons ended up childless, but supportive of all our nieces & nephews. Our dominant parent continued being a dysfunctional grandparent who thought the centre of everyone's life should be pandering to what THEY wanted WHEN they wanted it and HOW they wanted it - leopards/spots etc.? Needless to say, not fondly remembered by the grandchildren, who never sought them out to visit etc.
I guess what I am saying is a) I perceive through your writings that you have found the core of what a child needs, but more importantly, b) the core of what YOUR child needs ... I would surmise your core commandment that "Thy child shall have an internal locus of control" would work on most kids, male or female, and I can certainly see it working on myself growing up, but there is also the tailoring to the personality etc. of the individual child, and from your writings I think you have also done that.