Being a counselor gives me a lot of opportunities to have discussions about parenting. Before I was a counselor, I assumed that people made decisions based on what was best for their children when it came to parenting. Even if I thought they were wrong, believed they were operating out of the paradigm of what what was best for the child.
I am starting to believe that assumption is no longer valid. Put simply, I too often hear verbiage that causes me to believe I was wrong. I consistently hear things like, "Well, each parent has to figure out what works for them" or "You have to do what is best for you."
Here's the thing: Parenting isn't about the parents. I know this post is going to get me in trouble. I know it's going to have people angry with me at this point, let alone after they read what's coming. I know people are going to de-friend me and gnash their teeth at me. I even know that some people are going to decide to not come see me as a counselor, which will cost me money.
I do not care. This is too important.
Parenting is about the kids. It is about what is best for the kids. It's not about the parents happiness. It's not about the parents social life, or how fulfilled they feel. It doesn't matter that most of our life someone has lied to us and told us a lie that we can do whatever we want and that having a kid greatly limits that.
Now hear me out, please. It is important that parents take care of themselves. It is important that parents be well developed and emotionally mature people. So that they can model that for their children.
Children don't ask to be born. It is something that we do. We bring them into our lives. We bring them into this world and we need to consider the fact that everything we do affects them. Everything we do impacts their life.
Should our fulfillment factor into our decisions? Of course. Should our decision be influenced by what works for us? No doubt. But I don't think those things should be the top priority. When the decision involves our family, the first question should be, "How does this affect them?" What's the right thing to do in this situation...for the family? Does this help me mold my children into healthy and productive adults or does it detract from their maturity?
This doesn't mean that they should get all of the control. It doesn't mean that they will always get what they want, in fact they will often not get what they want if we follow this protocol. Too often, I am afraid we ask our children to sacrifice more for the family than we would ever actually consider doing ourselves.
I know, I know. Being a parent is hard. I know, it's rough getting pooped on and puked on and losing sleep. Try growing up with a patently selfish parent. Try growing up with a parent that tells you generosity is important and then spends most of their time filtering decisions that affect you through the window of how if affects them. Kids can be hard. They can disobey. They can push back for no reason. They can be a lot like their parents.
But I'm here to say, most of the things we do that cause us to move our kids to the back burner simply do not matter. No one says they wished they had spent more time at work instead of with their family when they are about to die.
Nobody says they wish they had spent less time with their family. Eighteen years. That's it. That's all you get by and large.
However old your child is, take that number and subtract from eighteen. That's all you got left to influence them. Sure, you're influence will continue throughout their life.
But it won't be the same, and if we're honest we know it.
I first started thinking about this when I had a conversation with youth workers a little while ago. She told me that kids were complaining far and wide that their parents won't let them go to a friends house but then when the teen stays home the parents ignore the kids and do their own thing.
That is patently ridiculous.
I began to ask a few parents about it. They agreed that it happens. The response I got on why it happened was, "Well, I need my time." There has to be a better way. And there is.
We teach values by what we do far more than by what we say.