Whiting column: Parenting is a responsibility for life
Being a parent is not a right; it’s a responsibility.
We are continually exposed to evidence of poor parenting, whether it be in the newspaper, on TV or in our daily lives. Good parenting is not a scientific formula. Every child is different, but it does require commitment, time and effort.
Over 40 years of teaching, I heard every possible excuse from parents. “They’re teenagers, I can’t influence them.” “I’m too busy.” “It’s my spouse’s fault.” Or the really disturbing ones: “I can’t wait until they’re 18 and gone.” “They ruined my life.” “We should have had an abortion.” “When do I get some return on my investment?” 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. Don’t think about what would benefit us; think about what would benefit our potential child. Thinking it would be good for us is not enough reason. Think about would be good for a child. Making a rational decision about having a child may not sound romantic, but choosing to devote our life’s efforts for the benefit of children is a major leap beyond a decision to marry.
We will be a parent for life. Our responsibility and influence doesn’t end when they are 10, 18, 21, educated, married or employed.
Before I was married, I still came home in the summer to work on the ranch. One day in July, we were weighing, branding, vaccinating and castrating the year’s calf crop. This required considerable sorting. My father wanted it to be done one way and I thought another. We argued, and when we did it his way, I was frustrated, muttering, fuming and being a pouting young man.
The local vet, whom we had known for years, was on hand to help and check on the welfare of the cows and calves. 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, 10 years after my father’s passing, he is, thankfully, still in my head as I make decisions.
We must be personally responsible and decide if we should be a parent. Am I willing to be a parent for life, not just when they are little and cute?
When we say our wedding vows, we are not just making a commitment to our spouse, but also to any 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 I come home from a long, tiring and maybe frustrating day at work?” “Am I willing to include them in my outdoor or other weekend activities I choose to do?” “Am I willing to go to their school activities and support them?” Over the years, I had too many students whose parents didn’t show up for one game or activity in four years of high school.
“Am I willing to quit smoking, drinking, using recreational drugs not only to role model but to save the literally thousands of dollars I would spend in that regard that could be better spent on the experience of family trips or their future education?” Also, “Am I willing to quit long before conception so the child’s health is not negatively affected by my vices?” A recent TV show highlighted babies whose mental capacity and physical health is already compromised by the habits of one or more of the parents.
“Am I willing to make an even deeper commitment to my marriage and spouse?” 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. We have the responsibility to provide that for them.
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.”
“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 have to occasionally be the “bad guy” and set ground rules, hold them accountable and enforce consequences. Deep down, our children actually seek such. It is their foundation; something they can rely on. In class, on more than one occasion, when a student was complaining about a parental rule, or a consequence their parents had given, another student said “at least your parents care.”
Sadly, there are people who should not be parents, and it’s their kids who are penalized.
It is our personal responsibility to put our kids first in our decision making, even before we have them. Parenting is for those who want kids because they understand the commitment and can provide them the upbringing they deserve.
Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. He recently retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. Comments and column suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.