What I learned being a parent
Parenting may take different forms and functions as time progresses, but I believe no one ceases being one. Long after your child outgrows you, and leaves you, you remain the parent that loves and cares for him as much as when he was still a baby.
I have forgone with the usual candy-flavored bullet-list to share with you some of the things I learned from being a parent. Here they are:
1. Hope and dream unselfishly
It is intrinsic, “human nature,” to dream and aspire for wonderful things. As a child you wanted the best toys, the yummiest foods, to be the best in class. As a teen, you wanted to be better looking, you wanted a bike, or you wanted to be the first to have a car. As an adult, you want to have the latest car model, you want to have the best job, or want to work less for more.
When you fell in love, you relish how your loved one makes you feel; and you plan for things that would make the two of you happy TOGETHER, and FOREVER. So you dream of a nice home and a nice life with your spouse. However, if your toy, your job, or your girlfriend ceases to amuse you, you dump them.
Do you notice the pattern? From childhood, and until you marry, YOU are at the center of your plans. Your toys, your material possessions, your friends, your career—and to a certain level, even your wife, are YOUR desires, your sources of self-gratification. Isn’t it true that if your wife ceases to love you (or you cease to love her) divorce seems to be temptingly sitting just around the corner?
When I became a parent everything changed with the way I planed and dreamed. My baby is at the center of everything — and I wasn’t even thinking about it. All I cared for was how to give my baby the best in the world —unconditionally. My dreams and aspirations ended being centered on what I want, or what makes me happy. I started dreaming and planning for somebody else, and I didn’t care whether this somebody else would repay me back, or love me for it, or if I break my back fulfilling this dream. I just started dreaming for another human being’s sake and it was the most natural thing in the universe.
What makes your spouse happy makes you happy. But if he/she starts to make your life miserable, you want to start looking somewhere else. It’s tough to love unconditionally. But with your child, nobody has to teach you unconditional love —it just comes out naturally, even to the most callous of souls.
2. Rich dad, poor dad
No, I’m not going to talk to you about how to get rich as how Robert Kiyosaki did in his “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” superseller. This is all about “parenting” —the verb. It is easy to assume that being the “parent” (noun), takes care of everything. It is easy to assume that “parenthood” is a God-given status and no one should question this.
My parents are the most wonderful parents anyone could ask for, especially (or despite) that both have less in life but a lot to give. My father did not finish high school and works as a lowly labourer, and my mother barely reached college. However, it was all she needed to help me become a better student. She was a cleaning lady for a college university, and she drowned me with books borrowed from the library. Because of poverty I became the only “wealth” and happiness of my parents.
When you are raised by poor, deficiently-schooled parents, you grow with hard work on your back. I had to wake up early every school day to cook and do the laundry while others were still asleep. I had to walk to school while others rode in flashy cars. And most importantly, I had to study harder to keep a scholarship while others played.
I promised myself I am not going to let my children suffer the hardships I had when I was their age. I ended up working so hard that I became just the “parent” (noun) without doing the “parenting” (verb). I relegated “parenting” to “providing.” I became the “rich Dad” who was providing my kid everything except my time.
As opposed to how my “poor Dad” treated me, happiness centered on my success. The resulting material possession—and my son, just became a part of it. I was living under the notion that I am the “parent” regardless of whether I exercise my parental role or not. I could never be more wrong. Being a father and a provider are entirely different things.
3. Nature vs Nurture
Parenting is more than that process of genetic transfer. Just like in any other relationship, you have to nurture it. I only came to realise this folly when I started working from home and I saw how my 15-year old son talks to his Mother and never to me. When I expected him to be glad seeing more of me around, it was the exact opposite.
Now, I’m trying to catch up on lost time. What is sad is, I can no longer take back the years I missed being with him. He is already 15 years old, and it won’t be long before he leaves us. I would feel empty. My being very close with my younger children does not makes my communication gap with the eldest any easier. But this is what I learned, and I learned it the hard way. I’m not gonna let the same happen with the younger ones.
To my fellow fathers, it is very easy to get caught in life’s rat race. Never forget why you are out there working in the first place. Stephen Covey, in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” hit the nail on its head when he said “Begin with the end in mind.” Nurture and love your children. Talk to them and hug them every chance you get. By the time they’re older, you won’t have that much chance anymore.
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