Parenting From the End

What will your children remember about you when you’re gone?

While most parents may not spend much time thinking about that, I actually think about that a lot!

I probably think about that too much! Maybe I even obsess about it. Because sometimes it seems that I am growing older faster than they are growing up!

In my previous post, Lucky and Blessed, I expressed the blessing of raising children the second time around. This post is a follow-up and, perhaps, illustrates the dark side of being an older parent.

Most parents are young adults when they have children. They expect to live long enough to watch their children grow up, graduate, start a career, get married, and have families of their own. And, they certainly don’t recognize their mortality as much as an older adult does.

But, my second-time-around parenthood is being performed nearer the end of my life than the beginning or middle. You might say, I’m parenting from the end!

So, when you’re an older parent like me, it’s certainly conceivable that you won’t live to see your children through all the phases of their development or all the major events of their lives. Your parenthood is likely to be abbreviated and you feel somewhat compelled to accelerate and accentuate your kids’ development into adulthood.

I think that because my time as a parent is shortened, I interpret every impulsive and careless behavior the kids exhibit as an existential threat to their maturation and their potential to become sensible, capable and considerate adults before I’m gone from their lives.

I feel obligated to forge them into self-actualized, self-sufficient human beings before I become too old and feeble to handle it!

When the kids were babies and toddlers, much of their misbehavior seemed inconsequential, even humorous and cute. They were, after all, babies and toddlers and not yet responsible for their actions and attitudes as human beings.

But, as they grew into pre-schoolers then gradeschoolers, and now pre-teens, I find I have less tolerance for the impertinence and indifference that accompanies puberty.

So, I no longer get to be that overindulgent grandparent of the toddler years. Now I must be the tough, resolute parent of soon-to-be teenagers.

Those precocious toddlers have somehow grown into impetuous pre-teens! As pre-teens their antics aren’t as cute as when they were toddlers and I find that I spend far more time telling them no, don’t, quit, stop than I do telling them yes, good, try again.

And, it’s difficult to lavish them with “I love you’s” when there’s so much unlovable behavior manifested.

Every parent, young or old, wants to make great memories with their kids.

So, when I’m gone will they remember me as their life coach or as their drill sergeant? Will their memories of me be as a nurturer or a discourager, a wise and loving father or an intolerant and grouchy curmudgeon?

It matters to me now because I think it will matter to them later. What they believe about themselves in their grown-up lives will be altogether effected by what I believed (or they think I believed) about them.

So, if it turns out that I grow old before they grow up, I hope they will realize and believe how meaningful and worthwhile and significant their lives are because they were so meaningful, worthwhile and significant to me!

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