To be honest, I am seriously annoyed. With all the discussions about Tiger Moms, Helicopter Moms, French Moms, and Laid Back Moms, I wonder why no one is qualifying what defines a “good parent.” You’re a better parent because your kid is quieter at mealtime than mine? I’m a better parent because my kid plays on his own and yours doesn’t? Where are the longitudinal studies of these children’s progress into adulthood? Who is to say how childhood behaviors result in emotionally stable, successful, polite, empathetic, patient, independent, healthy, and happy adults? Are those not the measures we should be considering?
One of my friend’s sisters was very hyperactive growing up. She drove us crazy whenever we hung out at her home, running manic circles around us. I am not sure how her grades were, but I don’t think she was at the top of her class to say the least. Yet now that she’s all grown up, she’s married with two kids, holds down a good job, and runs her home in a way that would make Martha Stewart look like an amateur. Most remarkable of all, her husband is physically disabled and this has never fazed her, seeing only the beauty that emanates from the inside out. I doubt I know anyone else who would have been able to look past the disability. To me, her parents did a great job.
But at what age can we even begin to judge if our parenting has been successful? I know of a young man in LA who until six months ago would have made any mother proud. He ran a successful business, owned a home, and was loved and admired by friends and family alike. But he fell into the wrong crowd and developed a drug addiction. Now his business is going belly up, he’s fallen behind on his house payments, and he may literally end up on Skid Row. Are his parents to blame for his sudden reversal in fortune? Are they at fault for not teaching him about the dangers of drug use and negative peer pressure? At what point do we stop judging parents and recognize that children have minds of their own?
With genetics, random chance, outside influences, and free will stacked up against our parenting, we can only do so much. It’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands in surrender: no objective measure of results, the judgment of everyone around you, and a constantly moving target, all smothered in guilt sauce. No matter what we do, our kids are probably going to end up on a couch telling their shrink how their parents screwed them up, just like we do. I hate sounding like a tripped-out guru, but I think the only thing we have control over is the present. What’s done is done, and we have no idea how our actions will affect our children long-term.
Besides, even our child might think differently than us when it comes to our success. I thought I had done pretty well for myself, even before I got married and had my son. But I know my mother did not truly feel like she had done her job right until I was married with a child. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
So, here is my proposal. Let’s all get together in 20 or 30 years and compare notes. I would venture to guess that as different as we all are, so will our children be as adults. Some (hopefully most) will turn out great (according to my standards, which I am sure are different from yours) and some will not. I would also venture to guess that at the end of the day, we will learn once again how very little control we have, especially on how our children turn out.