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Parenting and Life 2

Parenting has kept me in awe. To become a dad or a mom is profound. It’s difficult to explain. It’s a series of feelings you can hardly imagine before you become a parent. When you become one, it is such an honor, it’s so beautiful and permanent. Not only at birth, but ever after there’s a constant flood of feelings, learning, and challenges. And this leads me to ask the questions: What does it mean to be a parent? What is my role or duty as a dad?

There’s of course no right or wrong answers. And I suspect the meaning, role, and responsibility changes with time. However, I do believe that we have a role as a parent and every parent whether aware of it or not, does their best job to fulfill their role. For me, I’d like to consider these next roles as a parent (dad) and hope you find them inspiring:

A) Support

Support may be quite obvious, but it’s not that easy. Parents need to support their children. But what kind of support and for how long? At birth and in the first few years, the support is biological. To feed, to clean, to educate, to teach, etc. It’s natural that as the child grows older, the support diminishes. After all, parents want to raise an independent and resilient person. Having said that, I believe the role to support is an ongoing lifelong task.

And it’s not blind support where the child becomes complacent and fragile. Here’s the key: it’s the kind of support that enables the kid, the adolescent, or the young adult to have that base from which to explore and to grow to become psychologically strong, emotionally aware, and economically robust. I think at the core of support is what it provides by what it avoids. If human beings are able to grow up in a safe, healthy, and loving environment—then perhaps they can go on to have healthy social lives, intimate relationships, and good family bonds. More than that, be engaged and lead a productive and satisfying life.

Perhaps most importantly, support also comes in the form of timeto be present as a parent. To support is to be there. The most significant gift you can ever give to your kids is simply your time.

B) To be Proud

Becoming a dad has been my greatest honor. I’m so proud of my son being who he is. But pride seems to demand a reason. What exactly are we proud of? What’s the achievement? Certainly parents feel pride as their kids show progress, learn, and perform, and eventually as they go on to achieve their life goals. But to me, pride isn’t necessarily conditional. I want to be proud of my son regardless of his achievements and especially my expectations. It is who he already is: complete, alive, healthy, joyful, loving, and caring. In other words, as parents, we are proud of who they are (and what they’ll be), not what they do.

Achievements are a double-edged sword. Could any of us ever live to truly impress our parents? What exactly is our purpose and mission in life? I think we’re all scrambling to make sense out of it all. In fact, finding meaning is so elusive. As adults we come to realize that it makes more sense to create meaning instead. To choose and do our best. So as a parent, I want to be proud of my son for the honor of being able to share and spend the rest of my life with him.

As a father, to be proud of your son is perhaps the greatest gift you can ever giveand for you to find. To reiterate, pride is the virtue(s) you find in them not expectations that are met. And just to be clear, this does not mean a parent falls complacent of his children. Boundaries, discipline, and guidance are all of course of utmost significance.

C) Guidance

As society, we hope and rely (rightly so) on our educational systems, on our cultures, our laws, and economic systems to raise committed, respectful, and for lack of better words, good human beings. But there is no doubt that it all stems from good parenting. It’s our responsibility to not only support, to be proud, to love, but to guide. As I’ve grown older, I realize just how little I knew when I was younger, and I recognize how little I know now in contrast with the future. As youngsters, we overestimate our abilities.

What better gift from a parent than to guide their children with their lifelong experience? It is true that necessary skill-sets change, that education evolves, and that the economic cycles teach one generation but shift the implications for another. Things change, the world changes, but wisdom persists. I’m not talking about micromanaging your kids, or being a helicopter parent. I don’t view guiding as showing the ultimate path to success, but certainly showing which paths to avoid. To be a guide is also about stepping back to allow for exploration and making necessary mistakes for growth.

Those are my three main roles as a dad today. What are yours? Without a doubt there’s more roles we must fulfill as parents. But it pays off to think about our roles and not just be reactive about them. Are there different roles for a mom and a dad? I think so. Are they set in stone? Of course not. Can they intersect? Certainly so. With parenting comes the biggest, most important roles of a lifetime. Parenting and life don’t cease to amaze me. I hope as parents, we are shaping our sons and daughters to live in and to make this world a better place for themselves and everyone. I love you son!

Juan F. Diaz

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