“Where did I go wrong?”
As a Dad, that is the most terrifying question I can think of. My desire to avoid that question is a motivator in my parenting day-to-day. When my first son was born I felt like I had forever to make an imprint on him. But as he began to grow, and his siblings were born and they began to grow, it dawned on me that actually my window is quite short.
That’s why I like to lay in bed and talk to my children one-on-one with no one else around. That’s why I like to take my kids on roadtrips and go camping in the woods. That’s why I have four children, but look opportunities to spend time with each of them alone, just the two of us. It is one reason why I take pictures every opportunity I get. That’s why I spend hours making 100-page photo albums at the end of every year. I want to document all the smiles, all the laughter, and all the good times so that someday I can look back and know for absolute certainty that I did everything in my power as a father to give my children the best childhood I could muster. I want it to be irrefutable so that someday when my children go through their own trials and tribulations, they can march confidently through the adversity knowing that they are the products of a good upbringing.
The trick is that the harder you try to be a great parent, you will always run the risk of overdoing it…. I believe that every aspect of parenting is about striking a balance. Every parent wants to protect their children from danger, but you can be overly protective. Every parent wants their children to be well-behaved and polite, but you might end up being overbearing. Every parent wants their children to grow and learn, but you can suffocate them if you try to teach them too much or constantly try to save them from making a mistake. Every parent wants their children to excel in the classroom and on the athletic field, but you risk pushing them too hard and causing them to resent you. You want them to grow up with all the necessities provided for, but you might spoil them. The Indonesians say that problems like this are like flying a kite: sometimes you let the string out and the kite goes higher. And sometimes you yank the string and pull it back to keep the kite in the air. Such is parenting.
I hope that someday my kids can look back on their childhood and take two things away from it: it was fun and it prepared them well for the rigors of adulthood, and to be good parents in their own right. These are lofty goals, but I can’t justify setting them any lower.
And if I am successful, then I will never confront that haunting question, “Where did I go wrong?”