Monday, August 29, 2011

Parenting Is Hard

It is an old adage that parenting is difficult.  It’s not really true.  Parenting is almost disturbingly easy, as I posted earlier.  What with public education, crime at a near 30-year low, and all the other amenities that go along with modern living, it’s not hard to raise a child to adulthood.  What’s hard is being a good parent.

Good parents want more than just getting their kid to adulthood and out of the house, we want them to thrive, to surpass us, to come and visit once and a while! Like it would kill you to see your old father?  And your mother never gets a letter from you.  Oh, you use email?  Mr. Big Shot is too fancy to use a pen once in a while…


Okay, I’m better.

The point is, being a parent these days means you have to suppress your natural urges.  When your child refuses to eat, or fights with you, or has a tantrum, you can’t just hit them to make them stop, but you want to.  When your child fails at something simple because of stubbornness or lack of motivation, you can’t just yell at them, but you want to.  You have to comfort; you have to encourage; you have to bite your tongue.
The movie Oldboy was taken from my life.
(No, seriously, you have to bite it a lot.  I’ve lost the half of my tongue already, not to mention three of my fingers.)

When my son was anxious about taking the training wheels off his bike, I wanted to push him, to force him to try, but I didn’t.  I waited until he was ready.  I let him wait until he loved biking so much that he wanted to take them off.

Then I pushed.

It was hard for him, as much as he fears failure, but I got him through it.  We biked up and down the street over and over again.  The first day, I had one hand on the middle of the handlebars and the other, amusingly enough, under his butt so I could hold his seat.  I ran at top speed, sideways, with tiny steps so I could get out of the way when he swerved suddenly.  In half an hour I was covered in sweat.  I woke up aching in the morning.

The second day, I held the handlebars and his shirt.  Then I just held his shirt.

The third day I just touched my palms against his back and shoulder.  He fell a few times, but stopped caring.  Finally, he told me to let him go alone.

You know that scene in the movies where the dad lets go of the bike and the kid doesn’t notice, then he turns back and sees he’s doing it by himself?  That’s bullshit.  That’s a betrayal.  Good parents don’t do that.

Good parents wait until the child tells them to go.  Then they fumble for the camera and take a picture.  Then the child tells them to get their mother so she can see while the good parent gets a shower and collapses on the bed.

It’s easy to talk about being a good parent.  Being one is insanely hard because, after all the work and the self-control, your kid bikes off without you and you can’t go after him.  Being a parent is hard work, but there's really no alternative.
And then he was hit by a train.

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