My parenting philosophies are evolving. Maybe it's that my boys are old enough that they won't drown in the tub if I leave the room, maybe I'm getting older and have less energy. Or maybe my raisin heart is plumping out. Whatever it is, I think I'm easing up.
I want to develop my new ideas with someone whose parenting style I admire so when our contractor showed up yesterday, I started to talk. He was a family friend long before the remodel began and since then has become much more (though not necessarily by choice!) — marriage counselor, design consultant, comic relief, and shoulder to cry on, to name a few. Therefore, striking up this kind of conversation felt natural.We are in totally different phases of being parents (his kids are grown and out of the house) but I want to know how he has made it this far with all of his relationships intact. Not just intact but thriving. Look, I've never interviewed his children to verify all of this but I have spent time with their family and there are just some things you can't fake. He seems like the kind of dad who will genuinely love and accept his kids whatever life path they choose. I'm not so sure I offer the same guarantee to mine but I want to. Hence the evolution.
I pick his brain for a while and, as is his style, he's pretty open and honest. He doesn't feel the need to hide that he was young and inexperienced when he and his wife started having kids.
"How can my kids blame me for not knowing any better?" he points out.
This doesn't satisfy me. None of us know any better when we begin rearing children. As the conversation unfolds, however, I start to pick out what it is that I admire about him; what it is I'd like to emulate: he doesn't pretend that he has all the answers but at the same time you definitely get the sense that he's deeply grounded in his own personal and spiritual beliefs. It finally comes to the fore when he says, "Look, I think the Church has it right when they say 'Teach your kids correct principles then let them govern themselves'".
But there's something more, something you can't really learn in church, per se, or get from a parenting book: he really loves his kids. Not the kind that obligates a parent to the bum-wiping, night-waking, nutrition-supplying behaviors that come with the job — most of us can at least do those things. I'm talking about the kind you can actually feel; the kind that binds the heart of the child to the parent; the kind that engenders trust; the kind that opens a door and leaves it that way so that no matter what happens, the child knows they have a safe place to go when they need it. That's what I want to give my kids.
Brooks walks in during the conversation and wants to know if the contractor charges extra for the therapy. If he did, we'd have broken the bank long ago.