On parenting: the rare mercy of vague memory

There are no perfect parents. Parenting is an impossible task lasting as long as you breathe life completed on someone else’s timeline; a thankless job with all the world acting as critics. How you were raised is your only practical guide, comparing decisions made thirty, forty, fifty years ago that were so different in context that any similarities undoubtedly reside as coincidences of a vivid imagination.

There are few consistencies, zero really, although the exhausted parent’s mind desperately searches for warm corroboration even as the heart screams out in warning. “Yes” is almost always the wrong answer.

Saying “no” to your child is impossibly difficult. The parent enters the compact—whether made with a two or a twenty-year-old—trusting only intuition and meager experience to lead to an answer that might be understood in time but will more likely be used to lash out in an outgrown tantrum of protest.

Saying yes, particularly as money is concerned, is the easiest chore imaginable, ironically leaving the parent stewing in an unresolved doubt that will likely require future intervention to correct.

The only simple part of being a parent is expressing the unconditional love that comes with the job: honest and authentic, life-long love that transcends the most-thorny of conflicts or hate-filled words.

As parents age, life displays rare mercy through vague memory: the happy times are remembered while far more difficult ones slowly recede from reality. At least if one is fortunate enough to live that long.

Above all, parenting is about living your own life with all the mistakes and heartache that this world brings. To watch an adult son or daughter make a questionable decision is right up there with saying “no,” the awful nexus of dream versus nightmare for all involved.

There is no greater hardship than watching a child suffer. There is no greater parental responsibility than letting a grown child go. The enlightened freedom from this strongest of life’s attachments can be unbearably painful, an acute act of overlooked love dancing amid drama’s lengthening shadows into perpetuity.

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