Saturday, October 27, 2007

How Do Parents Do It?

I spent today with my brother, sister-in-law, and my two nephews. Although my brother and his family live just an hour's drive north of me, both my brother and his wife are often traveling on business (one of today's two career families) and so the time we have together is somewhat rare and always precious.

I'm far from being an expert on parenting, so I might have missed a lot of what was going on, but I was amazed at how gentle and patient the two adults are and how well behaved, yet confident, spontaneous and alive, the two boys are.

They are five and six years old -- and I unexpectedly found myself worried about their future.

The last thing I expected today was to be worried about my nephew's future. But there are so many traps laid for children as they grow up. Drugs, bullies, consumerism -- to name just three. As I watched the kids take delight in anything and everything today, I reflected that no matter what opportunities the boys are given in life, no matter how excellent their parents, and no matter how good their education, the risk of tragedy will always be there for them. How do parents do it?

How do parents live with the uncertainty of life without going nuts? If an uncle can feel how fragile the future can be for his nephews, how much more must that feeling be for the parents themselves?

It seems to me that one must learn how to deal with such thoughts.


enreal said...

It is only natural to want the best for your family. Nephews included...I do. I think the reason we fear their future and worry is in part of our society. With each year that passes there is less value. People lose site of what is important. And our children gain knowledge that is immaterial to their existence. Although I am not a parent, one day I hope to be...but there is always a part of me that thinks "how could I bring a child into a world like this?"

I think it is hope and love...that is how parents do it

decrepitoldfool said...

I did it by not having a choice of not doing it. I did the best I could with my three kids, and I am the product of a father and mother who did the best they could and so on. My grandfather was a violent SOB and his father, well, he would have gone to prison today for the way he treated my grandfather.

There is no shortage of expert advice, most of it wrong. My own parents were no guide, as clearly there was room for improvement and anyway society had changed and we don't raise kids outside of societal context. You get one shot and then you see how you did. It's the closest real-life analogue to the Christian notion of "it is appointed to every man once to live, and then judgment."

Two of my three sons are still speaking to me. The oldest, is not and hasn't for years. I would have expected that to be painful and sure enough, it is. More so than I expected.

In most cases my worst moments as a parent were driven by worries about their future.

Mystic Wing said...

My son & daughter are now pretty much grown, and somehow we managed to get them here with only the bare minimum of heartache and tragedy. How did we do it? Like you say, one must make peace with the certainty that life is uncertain.

It's the demand for certainty and permanence that makes parents crazy, especially these days. If you can keep loose reins, it's much more likely to turn out in the end.

Then again, I have the luxury of speaking from a place of remarkable good luck. Had the coin turned heads rather than tails, I'm not sure I'd be so serene.

Paul said...

Someone once said to me, "If you leave your children with only half the problems your own parents left you with, you have succeeded as a parent."