At a recent sporting event, my youngest daughter was verbally assaulted by drunk fan, but fortunately, I was there to defend her. This incident actually sparked me to write this blog as the reality set in that I won’t always be there to protect her. I will share that I was very proud of my daughter’s composure during the incident and I left the arena encouraged by her maturity in the wake of a very disturbing situation.
From the day a child is born, mom and dads are overcome with the natural instinct to protect our kids. Whether girl or boy, we are willing to sacrifice our own lives so that our kids can be safe, healthy, and happy. Every parent worries about their children’s well-being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even the slightest sign of an illness can ruin your day and something more serious can completely destroy you. So when do we stop worrying? When can we come up for air and do we ever shift from protector and nurturer to just nurturer?
I am a father of two daughters, ages 16 and 20, and maybe men worry more about their girls than boys but according to my Dad, the worry is just different. From the time they are toddlers, we are constantly coaching, loving, guiding, teaching, and often hovering to protect them. From what to eat, to what to wear, the importance of faith and education, and the type of people they should surround themselves with, we tackle these discussions one at a time and repetitively. As they mature into young men and women, we have the dreaded discussion about sex and the tough conversations about what kind of character traits, history, and behaviors our kids should be looking for in a significant other to date or potentially share their heart with and even their lives with.
I have come to the conclusion that there is not a parent out there who has found the perfect balance between being a mentor, coach, parent, and friend that provides the right dose of guidance, discipline and encouragement. In a blink of an eye, if we are not careful, our kids can find themselves headed down a path that may not end well. The wrong friends, bad health choices, bad career guidance or simply no healthy relationships to reference all play a role in the outcomes.
If not us, who else should we trust with our kids?
So what do we know anyway, right? Just ask any teenager or adolescent and they will gladly share with you how they believe their parents DON’T GET IT, DON’T UNDERSTAND and TIMES ARE DIFFERENT. Somehow they think we are robots and we don’t hurt, love and struggle and that our life experience is not relevant. I share with new parents that all kids become judgmental so be prepared to have your credibility challenged. Just because you aren’t a perfect role model doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be present in your kids’ lives. Being an active, engaged parent and looking out for your kids is not a luxury or an option, it’s your primary job second to nothing else in your life. If you aren’t present, engaged and willing to deal with the angst that comes with it, you may have failed them.
Being present, engaged and willing to have the tough and sometimes confrontational discussions can be very draining emotionally and can often lead to parents disengaging. If you are reading this and feeling discouraged, I urge you to find the energy by looking at all the good in your children to help fix what might be broken, as you may not get another shot at it. Our kids need us!!!
We all struggle as parents with drawing the fine line between knowing when to step in and when to back off, especially when we are watching them make a mistake that may have long-term consequences. Almost every parent will tell you that if you push too hard they will often deliberately continue the behavior you fear most. Are we supposed to watch a train wreck? Do we risk it? Is our job only to give guidance and it’s up to them to either take it or ignore it? Frankly what choices do we have?
Maybe society survived for thousands of years because parents were active in determining their kid’s choices. Have we swung too far the other way? Have we become complacent? Have we caved to the outside pressures which are more powerful than our spoken words? I don’t know all of the answers, but divorce rates continue to climb, kids are coming back home after college with no direction, 1 in 8 teenagers are suffering from depression, and in my opinion, women are being more objectified today than three decades ago.
I have concluded that despite all of the guidance from those who I respect and admire and regardless of how exhausting it may be, I will do my part to ensure I protect my kids from what they don’t see happening in their blind spots. That is my job and it’s my privilege to have this assignment.
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