Growing up, I was convinced that my father was making huge parenting mistakes. He would ignore my successes because his television shows were on. He would rarely compliment me. He would tell me that my problems were due to (unrelated) things that I did. He would immediately believe my sister over me. He was a work-a-holic who would ignore his family to get a few more hours of work done.
When I became a parent, I knew I wanted to avoid these mistakes. The first thing I did was set a clear work-family line. While I was willing to occasionally do some work from home, this was the exception rather than the rule. Nearly every night, walking out of the office meant that I would stop thinking about my office projects and would start thinking of my family. (Well, think of them more… It’s not like I stop thinking of them when I’m at work.)
I tried to not let TV or the computer get in the way of spending time with my wife and kids. In fact, that’s one big reason why I like observing Shabbat. I might not go to Temple on those days but it is a day when I won’t use computers at all. Even if I fall in to the temptation to focus on the computer instead of my family 6 days out of the week, there will always be that seventh day when the computer is ignored and my family gets all the attention.
Finally, I try to be fair in dealing with my kids. I don’t blame them for things that happen to them (unless they really did cause it), try to be supportive of them and do my best not to punish one because the other says he did something.
Still, now that I have a few years’ perspective on matters, I also know that my father did some things right. (Shhh…. don’t tell him I said that.) These things I’ll try my best to carry on.
First of all, he instilled in me a strong sense of family. Remember those long hours I mentioned before? Well, that was his way of providing for his family. During college, I took out minimal loans because he insisted on paying for as much as he could.
Even when I thought he was being controlling and unfair, he was attempting to protect me and guide me on the right path. One time, I thought he was being horrible to me because he wouldn’t let me take a job offer. In hindsight, he was protecting me from being scammed. (I had gone to the interview with no resume and no experience and yet they wanted to hire me right off the bat…. but first I had to pay a few hundred dollars to buy a set of knives to show to people door to door in an attempt to sell them.)
Secondly, remember my complaint about him rarely complimenting me? Well, he didn’t say it to my face, but he would often compliment me to his co-workers and friends. Perhaps he just isn’t comfortable expressing his emotions to his son. It might be a generational thing or how he was raised, but he expresses his pride in me the best way that he knows how.
Yes, my father was (and still is) flawed. But I’ve learned that parents are never perfect. We aren’t given instruction manuals when our children are born. We try to make the best decisions we can. Sometimes the decisions we make might be wrong (or, if right, not the decisions our kids want us to make). I’m sure that, when my son has grown up, he’ll regard me as a flawed father as well. I just hope that sees that I did the best job I could possibly do just like my father did the best job he could possibly do.