As I see it, there are two distinct jobs that a parent has. The first is most immediate and practical: make sure the kids are clean, healthy, don’t forget to wear pajamas on Pajama Day, etc. That part of the job, while harried, is a bit easier in terms of actual task-based responsibilities. In that regard, we can take a cue from the most organized mom on earth: Kate Gosselin, she of “Jon and Kate Plus 8” fame. My family has watched that show from the beginning and honestly that woman has a system that cannot be denied (or duplicated), and her house runs like a well oiled machine.
This part of parenting starts to taper off once kids can fetch their own toilet paper, meander to the bus stop on their own and navigate the distance between the pantry and the fridge. I have always maintained that it was really in the best of my kids to teach them to be independent and self sufficient, although there may also have been a touch of me getting a bit weart of being a housekeeper, administrative assistant, chauffer and nanny all rolled into one. This is where Ms. Gosselin must beware, if I may caution her, because she is such a control freak. Enough about her, though. My point is that the actual “tasks” associated with parenting begin to diminish as the kids get older.
While a parent is knee deep in poopy diapers, however, the second parental job—possibly even more important than timely immunizations—begins to subtly emerge: turning the little nuggets into decent human beings. Personally I find that one much more challenging.
There is a great nature vs. nurture debate, and as the mother of four very different children I can definitely say they are not born as blank slates. Even so, a kid’s home life obviously has a huge impact on what kind of people she turns out to be. My standards might be fairly low to some people, although I’m guessing they’re fairly aligned with many: I want my kids to be nice and I want them to be happy.
So how does a person (okay, really just concerned about me rather than some theoretical parent) know when they’re “done” parenting? Obviously I’m not going to extricate myself from my kids’ lives at any point, barring some soap opera caliber family feud, but my oldest daughter is now in college and my youngest is in eighth grade. I generally think that parenting them at this point is relatively easy because it’s more about making little tweaks here and there, giving guidance when needed and generally transitioning to more of a friend than a parent per se.
I’m feeling a little uncertain about my current role because my oldest has been out of the house for about four weeks now. She’s coming home for her first visit in two weeks, and I’m wondering if it will be any different when she comes back. After all, she’s not had anyone making judgments about her activities on a daily basis since she left. Am I done parenting her? I seriously doubt she’ll be super receptive to my guidance when she gets home (not that she really ever was necessarily).
I generally hate parenting books because I think they’re boring and mostly just common sense. My guiding principles have always been the nice/happy standard, and it has by and large worked out pretty well. Also, we were able to hone our parenting skills on our first experimental child, thereby producing perfect children thereafter (LOL, as the kids say). I guess I’ll just do whatever seems right, which isn’t very scientific, but then there’s no formula for parenting anyway. If the kid needs me or seems like he/she requires some guidance, I’ll step in. I guess there’s no certain age when that stops happening.
I’ve answered my own question. I’ll never really be “done” parenting—I hope.
P.S. Recently this blog has morphed slightly from Music Mom to just Mom. Music reviews are generally boring and I can’t always find a way to make them interesting. However, I have been listening to a band called Stepdad and their newish album “Ordinaire”. If you like Passion Pit you might like them. For a review by someone who knows what he’s talking about, read Matt Pais’ review in the RedEye.
Filed under: Parenting