These last couple funerals have for some reason really struck home. They have made me think more about parenting in general and my own parenting in particular. Or maybe it is that with my kids now living away from home, a stage in my life as a parent has come to an end, and I’m still coming to grips with how I feel about that. Probably it’s a little of both.
Ever since the funeral on Saturday night, I have been trying on the idea of being able to pass on my life’s loves as one of the measures of how well I did as a parent. I continue to think that with certain caveats (respecting each child’s uniqueness and recognizing that not all loves are healthy) it is a pretty good one.
For instance, as a person of faith, one of the most important things I’d hope to pass on to my kids is the love of God. The trick, of course, is that this cannot be forced. I have to hope that Linda and I created an environment where my kids have genuinely experienced the goodness of God and so have freely chosen to fall in love with him themselves. How have I done with that?
As I thought about that, I thought more about the family where the adult children seemed to deeply share their father’s loves. It seems to me he did two things right.
First, he didn’t let his loves take him away from his family. As his son told me, he found ways to combine them into family outings, activities, and vacations.
I haven’t always done so well with this. My older daughter, for instance, doesn’t like fishing. I think that is probably because when she was little, fishing often took me away from her.
And second, much like the young man told me yesterday when he said that it was always fun being where his dad was, these outings, activities and vacations were happy times. They don’t remember their dad being angry or short tempered or impatient or distracted, but thoroughly enjoying both what he was doing and who he was doing it with.
There was a self help guy who was popular years ago named John Bradshaw. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember this. The words aren’t exact, but his point was that fathers can only get angry so often before they lose their kids.
Those words hit me hard too, because I have also always struggled with anger. There are some demons in life that even if we can manage to somehow hold them at bay are still always lurking just around the corner, out just at the edge of the light.
I’d like to think I’ve made life fun for my kids, and I think I have. But even so, it is hard not to feel like I could have, should have, done better.