Our recent Fathers' Day aroused thoughts about parenting. Doesn't it seem ironic that we are schooled in all manner of things as we grow up and into adulthood, yet the two most important phases of our lives seem left to chance: How to pick a mate; and how to raise little ones, who may result from mating.
The romantic part is often a matter of blind luck, both good and bad; while the child raising usually follows whatever patterns were set by our own parents -- again, both good and bad. Having been a director of the Alameda Boys' Club for nine years, then a high school teacher for another three decades, I've discovered parents can be put on a continuum.
Some are excellent fathers and mothers (love their children, teach them how to get along with others, and prepare them to be productive citizens on their own); then there are the part-time parents who do what they can along those lines, but are busy with work, socializing, and getting what fun out of life they can find; next are those who are indifferent -- kids are kids, I made it on my own, so can they, besides I'm really busy with other things to do; finally, we have abusive parents who use excessive and harsh methods training their young "to behave." It's as though they resent them being born and interfering with their lives.
Though my father went out of the picture when I was 4, I was lucky enough to have a mother who was a natural at fulfilling that first role model. Hope you were that lucky, too.
While operating the Boys' Club during the 1950s, an 11-year-old member seemed a relentless, tireless runner in tag-type games. When I suggested he might try cross-country running when he reached high school, his answer surprised me: "Oh, I could never be as good as my dad." Also, our athletic director at the time, Jack Ginley, once a basketball star at St. Joseph, told me he felt the youngster appeared talented in that sport, too. Same answer, however, about never being as good as his dad. I knew the father and doubted if he had ever been very athletic.
The boy never went out for either sport in high school .... It's a shame what some parents do to their youngsters, either unthinkingly or deliberately.
Nevertheless, even a good parent has to be benevolently in charge. My wife, Janet, while teaching third grade at Otis School, asked one mother during a parent conference if her child got enough sleep (he had fallen asleep in class a few times). "Well, we ask him to go to bed at eight o'clock, but he doesn't always want to," the parent said. My wife replied, "You're the parent. He's only a child. You tell an 8-year-old when it's time to go to bed."
Well, maybe she happened to be one of those much too busy parents.
Contact Joe King at firstname.lastname@example.org.