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What is My Job as a Parent? April 28, 2008

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Blogging, Parenting/Children.
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One of my friends puts it this way:

My role as a parent is to make myself unnecessary.

Is that really my role? I have to admit, it’s hard for me to argue with that, even though my heart wishes it were otherwise. I certainly want my sons to continue to talk to me, but if I don’t teach them to operate in complete independence, am I crippling them for life? What will their lives be like when the day comes that I’m gone?

Dad Missing

At the time of this writing, my oldest son is 20 years old, and my youngest is 17. If something were to happen to me today, both of them have enough basic life skills to survive in the society that exists today. In that regard, I could probably claim that my work, as a parent, is finished.

The Changing Parental Role

In truth, my role as an authoritative, instructional guide is nearing the end, but my role as a friend has already fully developed, and that will (hopefully) continue for the remainder of our lives. The role that is just beginning is just as important. I call this role “the peer-mentor.”

In this month’s Men’s Health magazine, an article on first-time experiences mentions the following:

The first time you see your father as a man, complete with flaws, unfulfilled dreams, and unchained lust. Your mission: Learn from him, but don’t repeat after him.

I’m not so sure about the “unchained lust” part, but the rest of it is right on. I can remember clearly the day that my annual salary passed my father’s, and in a way, it made me sad. It was the moment that I realized that it was just as likely for him to ask me for money, as for me to ask him. It was a moment of… equality, and not one that I had seen coming.

It’s Nice to be Needed, but Is It Good?

In Economics, there is a technical distinction between “needs” and “wants.” Things in the “needs” category would be food, water, and shelter. We talk about the “need” for a car, but the truth is, it’s only a “want” dressed up in “need” clothing.

One of the things I noticed about my own father, after I started to see him as another man, is that I wanted to know his opinion on things. I didn’t just tolerate his thoughts or commentary. I wanted to know his reaction to just about everything.

In most relationships, we seem to be drawn to feeling “necessary” to the other person. We ask, “will he/she miss me?” We wonder if our absence will cause a sense of emptiness in the life of our loved ones.

A Healthy Choice

In an unhealthy relationship, there is a sense of interdependence that causes each of the people involved to stop growing. Though this type of relationship is common, and generally seen as “successful,” it’s ultimately unhealthy because it doesn’t push the participants to grow beyond where they are today, and become something more tomorrow.

In contrast, a healthy relationship pushes each of the people involved to grow emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. The best relationships are those where the parties live collaboratively, but aren’t interdependent. That is to say, where I do things for someone else because I choose to do so, not because they can’t do those things for themselves. Likewise, it’s entirely appropriate for me to enjoy someone else doing something for me because I want them to do so, as opposed to me needing them to do so. It’s a subtle, but important difference.

Perhaps then, my job as a parent might be better defined in this way:

My role as a parent is to make myself unneeded, but not unwanted.

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Comments»

1. Tre Pryor - June 12, 2008

And here I come for encouragement… *sniff* *sniff*

2. Tim - June 13, 2008

Hey Tre!

One of the most encouraging things I’ve experienced yet is appreciating when my sons choose to spend time with me, even when they’re not forced to. That is a very, very cool thing. – Tim


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