I have these manly moments where I plant my stake in the ground, pee on trees, and generally find ways to mark my mental, physical, and emotional territory. You’ve seen them. You’ve read them. Those emphatic, powerful moments of declaration, stating what I’ve found to be true and right and just. Stating that more people, more parents, should be more engaged with the their kids. Really, I’m stating that more parents should be like me.
Funny the little moments that make realizations like these coalesce. Tonight it was a PTA meeting.
This moment has been on the horizon for a while. Oddly, I was never nervous about running my first PTA meeting as the official PTA president for our elementary school for 2009-2010.
After all, I’ve been putting a lot of thought and writing into knowing, yes, knowing what makes a good father and parent. I’ve been aligning all the content I’ve written to support my position as an authority: an expert. It’s obvious, right?
But one comment that one parent had during the PTA meeting tonight, during an interesting discussion about a program that the school has been offering the kids to help them build conflict resolution tools, inadvertently opened my own eyes to the path I’d been driving myself down: a very myopic path.
Have I been totally wrong in my assessments of how we can change society, and how we, on a macro level, can change parenting? Well, not really. Maybe. Kind of.
How can that be?
Well, let’s think about that age old cliché of the afflicted actor asking the film director, “what’s my motivation?” Motivation is everything.
When I first embarked on this quest of documenting what it takes to be an effective father, I have to admit it was laced with a desire to stand above others, with a smug sense of knowing.
It’s not like this quest, laced with this motivation, went on unabated for years. The initial motivation only lasted a month or so. Soon, however, the motivation metamorphosized into something far more altruistic: an actual desire to research what works. That’s when the first thoughts about a PhD crossed my mind. They’re still crossing my mind, by the way.
So what happened? This parent noted how there were some parents who were against this program, because, and I paraphrase here, “some folks think that their way of parenting is the only way.”
What happened at that moment was a little voice in the back of my mind suddenly became very loud and screamed, “Eh hem! That’s you!” And I didn’t argue.
It was me, and having this parent phrase my perspective in just that way, was jarring, sobering, and refreshing. It was that burst of honesty that I needed to change my perspective, and it did change, right at that moment.
More than my perspective of my own parenting skills change. At that very moment I opened myself up to the holistic notion that we really are all in this together. Everyone, every parent, is doing the best they can at the task at hand, given the tools, and experience that they have come to the table with. Are some people better equipped to be parents? Absolutely, and that doesn’t necessarily include me. After all, I will be the first person to admit that my demeanor is not one to be a full-time, stay-at-home father, who has no other definition outside of parenting.
I need to know that I have a definition outside of “dad.” I like being a writer. I like being a voice-over artist. I like being a weekend-warrior-wanna-be surfer.
I like knowing that I’ve been slapped into seeing others through more compassionate, balanced lenses.
And isn’t that how most situations / scenarios / ideologies pan out? There are the extremes, and then there’s a more balanced center which applies to most of us who are just trying to do the best we can, with the skills that we have.