For Example…

My youngest child will graduate from college in December.


My youngest child, who by definition is no longer a child.

She is taking her certification exams today and tomorrow to teach in South Carolina, her home state.

My oldest child, my namesake, is a mother of three. She sings. She dances. She acts. She throws Frozen-themed birthday parties like nobody’s business.

My middle child lives in Denver. She is passionate about all the right things. She is tender hearted, but she has learned to be bolder and stronger and to make her opinions known at both the local coffee shop and the Colorado ballot box.

At times like these, at times of great achievement and wonderful milestones, I am transiently consumed with anxiety about whether or not I have been a good parent. Have I been a good example for my children? Have I just talked the talk or have I walked the walk?

When your children are very young, they look up to you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’re taller, stronger, smarter, and certainly more emotionally stable. They carry this grand delusion forward for years, and you bask in the parental warmth and glow of knowing that you need never lose a chess game or foot race or impromptu swim meet. They know they can’t beat you, you know they can’t beat you, so you let them beat you. Sometimes.

As time goes on, they begin to discover that your loafers are dusted with clay. Your arguments have holes in them. Your faith is not as rock solid as you once told them it was. Santa becomes real to them in that he is not.

They grow, and isn’t that what we dream about and pray for? They grow tall and strong and witty and funny and emotional and beautiful and intelligent and creative and passionate.

They become, at the same exact moment it seems, us and not us in the twinkling of an eye.

Do they see my struggle? Do they feel my ambivalence? Do they sense my intellectual gamesmanship with myself? Oh, I can try to keep these things, these changes of my own, to myself, but I know better. Just as our children may have thought we had eyes in the back of our head, they have always had tiny invisible emotional divining rods coming straight out of their smooth, wrinkle-free foreheads. With ancillary bullshit detectors hanging like earrings off their ears.

We parents have never seen them, but we know they are there.

Have I been a perfect example for my children? Heavens, I gave up on that decades ago. Have I been a good example of a work in progress? I hope so.

I have wrestled , am still wrestling, with the meaning of it all, globally. My values have not changed greatly in my fifty seven years, but my adherence to them has been tenuous at times. Faith has been the most powerful force driving me rapturously from within, and other times has been the most oppressive fetter binding me tightly with indecision and fear.

My internal world has not always mirrored my external world. Some of you know this intimately. Others have never had a clue.

So, have I been a good example for my children? Only they can answer that.

The quest goes on, though. I have three grandchildren and hope to one day have more. I want to be a good man to these precious little folk who light up and call me Papa whenever I come through the front door to visit.

I am not a perfect man and know that I never will be.

Life is not a stenciled, cut and pasted, color matched exercise.

It’s messy, it’s sometimes painful, and it’s always full of surprises.

The best example I can hope to provide, I think, is to more clearly show others how I move through the morass. How I try to make sense of it all, while making the world a little better than it was before I got here.

My children are healthy, happy, productive women who are already making their marks on the world and the next generation. They are moving away, and yet they will always be with me, and I with them.

Isn’t that what being a successful parent is all about?


6 thoughts on “For Example…

  1. Greg–To an outsider,it looks like you,& unfortunately now divorced,wife did a very good raising your daughters to be thoughtful,caring,productive adults. What else can one hope for from their children,except grandchildren of course.


  2. Hmmm…two seemingly disparate thoughts. The first is Ray Carver’s answer when asked what he wished for most: “To be beloved in this lifetime.” The second, perhaps a new meaning for “Child is father to to man.” If we blend these thoughts, I come up with something like this: Our children love us for our failings and foibles, not in spite of them. I think you’ve done well, Doc. Not that you’ve failed and foibled well, though of course you have, but that you’ve loved, and you’ve engendered love in return. And isn’t that–borrowing heavily from Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy”– the greatest thing we can ever learn?


  3. It always surprises me when people say they wish their kids were cuddly babies again or they dread the teen years. I think the older they get, the more fun they are . You can have great conversations and you do not have to drive them around. Sounds like yours are a joyous bunch so I guess you must have done something right. I think mine became kind , loving adults on autopilot!


  4. Rob,

    Thanks for that thoughtful comment.

    Isn’t it true in the world of baseball that the man who hits the most home runs also has the most strikeouts?

    I’ve had my share of stumbles, but I know I have hit at least three home runs, and they are now loose in the world to make it a better place!



  5. Autopilot! You were very lucky then I suppose.

    Raising children is one of the hardest jobs you can sign up for, and nobody gets an instruction manual (apologies to Dr. Spock and his ilk).

    Glad ours are all grown up and doing well!



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