Parenthood has been the greatest journey of my life. Medicine is a great journey as well, but in my practice of medicine, I have more control. Parenting is about love, but also your relationship with control of yourself, your child, and the universe.
Everyone wants to raise an amazing child. We want to provide every opportunity for success and personal fulfillment. How we manifest this desire varies among all of us and is influenced by the cultural demographics we are in. My parenting was partially influenced by the demographic group comprising Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. To completely generalize, parents here have a lot of resources and in reality money to provide these opportunities. Kids don’t just play soccer, they play select soccer. Kids don’t just attend school, parents search and interview and select from a wide variety of public and private schools. Kids don’t take piano lessons, they have private music tutors. We enrich our toddlers by specific toddler classes in swimming, art, music. All the kids spend their days in camps during the summer. Few of them are home day in and day out doing nothing on warm summer days. Few benefit from boredom.
I have decided I would like to raise ordinary, normal people. They don’t need to do the AP program in elementary school. They can watch TV, eat at McDonald’s, and play video games. I don’t need to develop intricate systems of rewards, monitoring, etc, to make sure they don’t watch too much TV, eat too much junk food, or play too many video games. I can go with my mood that day or my instinct. They will figure it out.
What I want to teach them is deeper than that. I want their goals to be about finding love, connection, compassion, and happiness. I want to give them some skills to begin to learn about grief, sadness, inequality. I want them somewhere, at some time, to focus on others and less on whom they are (realizing that much of normal adolescence only seems to be able to focus on oneself).
When we have kids, we create a vision of who we will be and who they will be. For me I thought (unconsciously), I will raise people like me. And to some degree I have. Parts of me (some good and unfortunately some bad) I see in all my kids. For example academics: reading came easily to me. I thought I would instill this in my kids. We read out loud every night until they were reading on their own. Except, only one of my kids loves to read the way I do. One of my sons found reading, spelling, and writing to be hard work. He didn't like it. He avoided it. We tried everything, tutoring, IEPS (individualized education programs), counseling, medication, assessments. But he is funny, incredible, brilliant, empathetic, sarcastic, and quick witted. He may never like to read.
But recognizing that I put these people here on the planet and that what happens next has little to do with me, has been a great realization and opportunity. It seems the majority of my 30s have been spent in my minivan (cultural demographic example) shuttling groceries, dogs, kids. There was a moment in the car when I realized I’m done, I made it!
I raised 2 decent human beings (and one still in process). That is enough. Now I want to make sure they know it and believe it, and they enjoy their life journey.