Thought for Thursday – On Parenting


When our children are born – and even before – we like to imagine infinite doorways open before them. They can do or be or become anything they imagine. Yet even at that moment it isn’t true – we are fooling ourselves because these incredibly beautiful little people are pure emboriements of all of our love and hopes and dreams … so there just can’t be limits.

Yet there are – for millions of kids born worldwide they will be happy to see an open door labeled ‘survive my childhood’. And while parents want their kids to live in the ‘land of AND’ (where they can be US President AND CEO AND Nobel Prize winner AND … ), in reality we live in the reality of ‘OR’. For every path chosen, others get closed off.

For my kids, growing up in America as middle-class, white, male, and Christian … there were loads of doors open. They were both very healthy and developmentally normal, and as parents we were determined to give them every opportunity we possibly could.

Here is a great quote to remind us of our role as parents:

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Kahlil Gibran

And so from an early age we started to see things from them that would become forks in the road – we weren’t going to have gymnasts, for example. They loved music and reading and drama and one of them loved art and the other had a limitless imagination. Then it became clear that neither cared all that much about competitive sports (we swore my older son was only on the travel soccer team to hang with friends and eat oranges).

And so on.


As our kids have gotten older they have developed different aptitudes and interests, from performing in plays and musicals, getting selected for the National History Day state finals, writing music and playing DJ at the local mall during the holidays, serving on the area ‘youth court’ as attorney and judge, and on and on.

Yet for everything they chose TO do, there are things they choose NOT to do.

And as parents we do our best to support them, to maximize their chances and opportunities, to help in any way possible. Gone are the days where getting a certain degree or being in a certain major meant getting a high paying job – and as a result our focus has been on them finding and pursuing their passion.

Of course it isn’t all easy or glorious or glamorous … there are lows as well as highs, fights, struggles, tears, and more. Ultimately there is only so much we can do as parents.

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” — Mitch Albom

Both Lisa and I carry things from our own childhoods that we didn’t want to pass to our own boys – and sometimes the result of that is over-compensation. We have made mistakes, to be sure … but we have made them with love and the best interest of the boys at heart.

“I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Because ultimately all we want is for them to be happy – happy in what they do as a job, happy in their hobbies, happy in their relationships with friends and family, and most importantly happy with themselves as people.

Parenting isn’t about having all the right answers, it doesn’t come with 100% guarantees … but it does give you the ability to watch those beautiful babies you couldn’t believe you made turn into young adults seemingyl right before your eyes. In the next couple of years our boys will graduate high school and move on from there … and it is both scary and exciting to watch as they prepare to spread their wings and soar.

11 thoughts on “Thought for Thursday – On Parenting

  1. You reminded me of a passage from the book that I just read that really stuck with me and echoed the tone of this post:

    “I really wondered why people were always doing what they didn’t like doing. It seemed like life was a sort of narrowing tunnel. Right when you were born, the tunnel was huge. You could be anything. Then, like, the absolute second after you were born, the tunnel narrowed down to about half that size. You were a boy, and already it was certain you wouldn’t be a mother and it was likely you wouldn’t become a manicurist or a kindergarten teacher. Then you started to grow up and everything you did closed the tunnel in some more. You broke your arm climbing a tree and you ruled out being a baseball pitcher. You failed every math test you ever took and you canceled any hope of ever being a scientist. Like that. On and on through the years until you were stuck. You’d become a baker or a librarian or a bartender. Or an accountant. And there you were. I figured that on the day you died, the tunnel would be so narrow, you’d have squeezed yourself in with so many choices, that you just got squashed.”

    I have no input or life experience about being a parent, unless you count successfully teaching a dog to poop outdoors parenting. But I’ve seen my share of good parents and my share of poor parenting, and I am quite certain you and Lisa rank pretty high on the list of good parents.

    • That is a great quote – is it from “Tell the Wolves I’m Home” that you said you’d just finished? Something else to add to the reading queue … 🙂 And thanks!

      • Isn’t that funny how oru mind starts to write its own story as we read certain books – sometimes we can see it all coming, other times we get swept along, and still others we get a sense of ownership of the characters. It is intriguing.

  2. I really like the Gibran quote (first time reading it) and think about that often, how much can I / should I impose on my children, when I am ‘only’ their mother but not their owner or dictator of their life. The choice needs to be theirs. They are still very young so I’m still making a lot of the decisions for them, but it is important to me to make clear to them that it is their life, and they have the right to chose.

    • I think that the tough thing becomes when to mandate and when to allow choice. Chocolate for 3 meals a day? Um, no, that is NOT a choice they get. Skipping homework every night to watch TV and play video games? Um, no. Stay out all night, go drinking / drugs in middle school, and on and on … nope.

      And also teams – our basic rule was always ‘finish the season’: don’t want to play soccer/baseball/basketball? Finish the season and you are done. Except for our youngest and baseball – because the way the league was organized he was 2-3 years older than everyone else on the team, and found himself disciplining the other kids … and that made it miserable and he was done anyway, so we let him walk away.

      As they get older they own more of their own choices, but our younger son reminds us that society expects him to make life altering choices at a time when he still has to ask permission to go pee in school. 🙂 So sometimes we just tell them we are there to help …

  3. I think this a great post about how you and your wife have been bringing up your kids. When I have kids I can imagine potentially trying to overcompensate too for things that happened in my childhood. As you said parents aren’t perfect but everyones human and does the best they can.

    • Thanks so much for the nice comment – I think we definitely do end up seeing things of ourselves in our kids. Some of it is clearly genetic, othets behavioral. It is interesting watching them grow 🙂

  4. Pingback: My own parenting journey | musings by carly

  5. I have a 13 year old, and while we often butt heads 🙂 I try to do my best to show him constant love and guidance. I feel like this is a critical time in his development, and is try the most difficult part of parenting.

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