This morning’s news feed contained a headline reading:
“Parenting Doesn’t Matter”Article, Daniel Engber, Slate
No, I didn’t give you a link because I didn’t click to read it mainly because:
- I’m no longer the parent of children young enough I am ‘in charge’ as it were and
- The title, itself, saddened me.
If I didn’t read, nor do I plan to read, why on earth would I link for you to go do so?!? But, the info is there, should you want to search and read it – 🙂
For all I know, it’s an article written with an eye towards getting the pendulum swing of helicopter parenting to move back towards the center of reasonableness.
The title did, however, accomplish one thing – it took me back in time to some of my favorite memories……
A long time ago, in a galaxy just over the county line, I worked as a truck stop waitress. The travel complex was one of six owned by a man who lived two states away.
The rumors and stories told to me as a new employee to be hazed, were, to my mind, beyond belief of what was allowed in workplaces in need of adhering to Fair Wage & Labor laws, but one thing was made clear to me, quickly…
The fury of the Boss could explode at any moment, so best keep your head down, do your job perfectly and hopefully, you too, might survive the visit from headquarters.
When the Boss came to town, he came by private aircraft. And piloting his plane, was J.
J was a compact man, handsome, quiet, still and peaceful. He stood in stark contrast to the legendary-for-temper Boss, who, upon arrival, strode in and headed straight for the complex manager’s office with an energy that seemed barely contained.
J, on the other hand, strolled to the back dining room, often with reading material tucked under one arm and ordered a meal or drink and settled in to wait.
The back dining room was normally closed if not needed and was a place where waitresses were allowed to take a standing smoke/coffee break, while keeping an eye on their few tables, through a slit in the folding doors, as long as such breaks weren’t abused and all your work was done.
Such little allowed ‘perks’ made up for the times when tour bus after tour bus flooded in and you spent 8 hours flying from one task to another and went home, drained, and realized in your stupor, you could quit smoking, as your last cigarette was 9 hours ago…..
I waited on J a few times during my tenure there. He always tipped, even though his meal was comped, which, in service folk land, indicates integrity and character more than a firm handshake does…
Because I was a smoker and had prepared for The Visit by spending the shifts prior making durn certain my usual rotation of deep cleaning was all done, again, whether it was needed or not, just so I wouldn’t have to witness a storm inside the building, J and I would often converse while I smoked and he waited.
As you can tell by now, this is a story about J and how talking to him, those few times, greatly impacted my parenting views.
J was well-read & educated, I imagine. I don’t remember ever conversing about his background, where he grew up, went to school or what he did before becoming a pilot….
He was more about asking questions, then listening to your story.
But should you pick any subject or further the topic he introduced via a question, you would find an enthralling conversation partner.
Philosophy, psychology, history, astrology, you name it, when J sat waiting and I could take the time for a break, well, those few conversations were memories to be saved and pressed into Ye Olde Book of Life, to withdraw and muse over later when Life meant I was in need of some companionship or advice.
Time passed, no one got fired that I recall, and then came the day when he arrived, to find me noticeably pregnant and just as noticeably, missing any jewelry on my left ring finger.
J’s eyes were compassionate, and yet, I did not sense any judgement from him as I had encountered in so many other areas of my small rural community life.
He asked open ended questions and congratulated me on cutting down to two cigarettes a day, instead of my usual pack and thought my plan to work as long as I could a good one.
He laughed over my relapse from being a vegetarian back to omnivore because the child had demanded a cheeseburger and the craving had been too hard to resist.
He chuckled over my current love of drowning just about any meal I ate with creamy Italian vinagrette or green chile and said such things were apparently providing nutrients my body needed, followed by his opinion on the virtues of both vinegar and peppers, although he expressed doubt over both sauces being combined in one concoction…
And then he asked me a question that to this day, I do not remember the question, just my reply…
“I just hope and pray I can stay out of the way enough to not mess up this perfect little soul that’s been gifted to me”
He thought it odd I should worry about such things as messing up the child and asked me why I thought such a thing? I answered,
Through observing others, talking to adult friends and hearing about their horrible childhood, so different from mine and what I observed in families around me as a child. The things that wounded me as a sensitive child and sometimes still bother me, as well as knowledge of some of the most terrible parents in the tomes of mankind’s history….
And then he did some of his ‘magic’ through either astrology, tarot or palm reading…maybe a combination of all of the above I don’t rightly remember now… and proceeded to tell me my child would be a boy, a leader among mankind and that I must be very special for such a soul to pick me, for their mother.
In short, he just said out-loud the various hopes, dreams and inner talking to most first time mothers rather give themselves, in order to get their ‘game on’ for the coming two-decades or so marathon where courage, strength and stamina are needed in order to ‘do what is before me to do’.
I thought his prediction of the child’s sex odd, as I had already told him I didn’t know the sex of the child, didn’t want to, didn’t care, just wanted it to be healthy and already had names picked out for either a boy or a girl, and was buying baby stuff in either white or variety of colors, so I’d be set, no matter what showed up.
To this day, I don’t know if J knew more about the child, me or both than I did, but he said it was so and left it at that.
I wasn’t naive enough to buy into all he said, but I was, on the inside, quietly grateful for the external-to-my-own-mind chatter, pep talk.
J left to fly the Boss back home.
I went back to waiting on tables and waiting for the miracle child to arrive.
I do believe, that was the last time J and I had a conversation.
He was right, you know. I had a boy, who became the lead cheerleader and accountability personage in his ‘teen-pack’ of peers. If the universe had told J Morgan would die young, I’m ever so grateful he didn’t tell me that day.
I never forgot what he said – and never forgot my vow, although, through stress, overwork, illness, there were times I messed up and wasn’t the calm, peaceful, sage parent I wanted to be 24/7.
I did learn, through the years, and know in hindsight….
What you do as a parent Damn Sure DOES Matter
But often, it’s more about actively working to not destroy through human failings and leadership failings, the most pure and precious little thing that landed in your charge –
Protect their body when they are too young and inexperienced to know how.
Protect their mind from the trash the world and ignorant folks want to fill it with, until they have formed their own gatekeeper. Guide them in the ways to form their gatekeeper, even on how to have a filter for you and your blind spots.
See their soul as unique and individual, not as a Mini-Me.
Run coverage, blockage or let them rest on the bench and take the field for them when they are outnumbered or outgunned and ask for help.
Let them fail early and often at the small things, so they increase their resilience and coping with disappointment skills as they mature.
Broaden their horizons through literature, history and philosophy, so they understand both how unique they are, and also, they are but one grain of sand on the beach of the cosmos and rarely is there anything new under the sun.
Teach them to follow their dreams AND to listen to nudges from the universe that maybe, just maybe, those challenges or obstacles to the dream are there for a reason….
Let them learn early about other religions, cultures and ethnic groups – especially if you live in a diversity desert.
Let them go to worship with their friends when they are old enough to spot those who would abuse positions of authority and try to bully into them a skewed vision of reality.
And finally, whenever your teenager comes out in the morning, and says,
“Mom, I seriously need a mental health day. My grades are okay, can I puhhhlllleassse just stay home? Or go to work with you today?”
Say yes and lie if need be about the severity of ‘symptoms’ when you call the school.
Then, either at home, or on the road for business, declare it “Our Day of Freedom”, crank up the tunes to sing and/or dance to, and laugh yourselves silly.
And never, ever forget, those morning pleas happen because THEY see what a mess you are getting yourself into and decide to help YOU out, because, in the end, our children are our mentors in the art of “A Human – Being”.