The Parent as Teacher
With Father’s Day just around the corner I am particularly grateful this year for the precious gift I was given two weeks ago. It’s also a chance to reflect on my 18+ years as a parent and give myself a self-assessment of sorts. Overall I think I have done pretty well while still making many mistakes, as is inevitable with raising other human beings. In addition to reflecting on my decisions at different times I cannot help but consider my overall parenting strategy.
I was raised by teachers. Not classroom teachers, but teachers nonetheless. My experience with both my parents as well as my grandparents was one of constant lessons. From the simple, “Chew with your mouth closed,” to the more complicated, “This is how to change a flat tire,” to the theoretical, “Here’s how you might mend your broken heart,” the most important adults in my life were constantly sharing their acquired knowledge with me. So of course, that is the way that I parent.
My daughters do not think of these lessons as teaching. They call them ‘lectures’ and there is a fair amount of eye-rolling that follows. For a long time I thought I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I was too stern. Maybe they wanted these bits of wisdom presented to them as suggestions instead of as facts. I have considered that perhaps the Internet Age has made them skeptics. Afterall, for every how-to video you will find on YouTube there are five others that tell you to do it a completely different way. Dad isn’t a doctor so when he gives advice on what to do with the blister on the back of their heel after a day of hiking, surely WebMD would be a better resource.
Make no mistake, I am not claiming my lessons should trump all others. An important part of growing up is also seeking knowledge outside your home and accepting that Dad Isn’t Always Right. I first moved beyond my father’s teachings when I bought my first foreign car. Several Hondas and Toyotas later I am pretty sure he was wrong about the superiority of American automobiles in the 1990s.
Writing for Front Porch Republic, Skyler Reidy discusses lessons also learned from a parent:
Little lessons like these, rooted in space and time, are the seeds from which habits grow. I still make a point to coil hoses when I’m done with them, and I feel my skin crawl when I see people put away hoses improperly. American flags and neighbors’ gates have also taken on an air of holy obligation. I’ve come to see what my father saw, that there is simply a way things are done.
My sense of frustration over having daughters that resist my teaching moments had dissipated in recent months as I have found a willing student in my oldest nephew. He and I have always been close and he has been spending some time in the woods with me this spring. As I pass on my knowledge of the outdoors and hunting he seems to genuinely enjoy learning from me and asks the questions that demonstrate a mind that understands. It soothes my pride in a way that I would be ashamed of if I was more humble.
As for my daughters, I know that they will get older and, as Reidy suggests, those lessons will become habits and they will do as I do and chuckle to themselves when they realize they were tricked into following dad’s advice. When I am gone I hope they will take comfort in those lessons the way I do now with my dad and my grandfather gone. Their teaching moments live on in me and for that I am extremely grateful.