Whiting column: Parental commitment requires some intentional forethought and planning | PostIndependent.com

Whiting column: Parental commitment requires some intentional forethought and planning

Bryan Whiting

Being a parent isn’t a right; it’s a responsibility.

We are continually exposed to evidence of poor parenting, whether it be in the media or our daily lives. Good parenting isn’t a scientific formula. Every child is different, but it does require commitment: time, effort, unconditional caring.

Over 40 years of teaching, I heard every possible excuse from parents: “They’re 16, it’s too late. I can’t do anything.” “I’m too busy.” “It’s my spouse’s fault.” Or the real disturbing ones: “I can’t wait until they’re 18 and they’re not my problem.” “When do I get some return on my investment?” “We should’ve had an abortion.” I could go on, but I think you get the drift.

Just because we can have sex doesn’t mean we should be a parent. It shouldn’t be impulsive. We should be thinking, but not about what would benefit us; but what would benefit our potential child. Making a rational decision about having a child may not sound romantic, but it’s best if it’s a desired choice. It’s a major leap beyond a decision to marry.

Parenting is for life. Our responsibility and influence don’t end when they’re 18, 21, 50 or when educated, married or employed. Before I was married, I came home in the summer to work on the ranch. One day in July, we were weighing, branding and vaccinating the year’s calf crop. This required considerable sorting of 400 cow/calf pairs. My father wanted to utilize the usual procedure and I proposed a new way. We discussed, then argued, and when we did it his way I was frustrated, muttering, and doing a good job of pouting as I walked toward my horse.

The local vet, whom we had known for decades, was on hand to help vaccinate and deal with any medical issues that emerged. He walked over, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. He will always be the Dad and you the son.” Even today, 18 years after my father’s passing, he is, thankfully, still in my head as I make decisions.

Whether involving marriage or not, the commitment required of a relationship that may result in a child is beyond significant. As a teenager, my grandfather and I were walking back after pheasant hunting. He asked if I had a girlfriend. When I answered, “Sort of,” he shared, “That’s good, I did ‘sort of’ have one before I met your grandma.” Curious, I asked why it didn’t last. He responded, “Thankfully, I learned that lust lasts two weeks and then you have to talk to them.”

When we make a commitment to our partner, whether it involves vows or not, we are also making a commitment to future children that may result. We must ask ourselves: “Am I willing to teach them values and role model those values every day?” “Am I willing to be employed and work hard to not only provide for them economically, but role model work ethic?” “Am I willing to spend time with them even when tired or frustrated from a tough day at work?” “Am I willing to include them in my activities?” “Am I willing to support them at school?” Over the years, too many of my students’ parents didn’t show up for one game or activity in four years of high school.

The hard decisions don’t stop there. “Am I willing to quit smoking, drinking, using recreational drugs in order to not only role model desired behavior but save thousands of dollars that could be better spent on family trip experiences or their future education?” Also, “Am I willing to quit long before conception, so the child’s health isn’t negatively impacted?”

A recent TV expose’ focused on dealing with babies whose mental capacity and physical health was compromised by the habits of one or more parents.

“Am I willing to make an even deeper commitment to my spouse and our lives together?” Nothing is more important to children than the relationship of their mother and father. They need and seek the consistent safety, stability, and reliability of that relationship. Kids will be kids just as we were. Consequently, we have the responsibility to be that foundation they know they can count on.

My Senior level classes had been together for two years, and we knew each other well. We commonly asked questions and shared our responses. One was “What was the worst day of your life that didn’t involve the death of a relative?” There were a lot of divergent answers, but sadly the most common was, “the day my parents told me they were getting a divorce.”

Staying together can be difficult and may necessitate heroic actions by both parties. Willingness to go the extra mile is something to contemplate before committing to a significant relationship that may result in children. After is too late and isn’t fair to kids.

“Am I willing to be a parent first and friend second?” It’s great when our children also become our friends, but before they are out on their own, we must be their parent first. We must occasionally be the “bad guy,” set ground rules, hold them accountable and enforce consequences. Deep down, our children seek it. In class, on more than one occasion, when a student was complaining about a parental rule, or enforced consequence, another student said “at least your parents care.”

It’s our personal responsibility to put our kids first in our decision-making, even before we have them.

Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to: bwpersonalresponsibility@gmail.com.

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