I think, as parents, we often wonder if we’re doing a good job in the role. 

Will our kids grow up to be the adults we hope they will? Will they still love us or even like us, when they get to be our age? 

There isn’t a handbook for parenting. There is no real way to measure our success. Most people think that if your kids are considered good kids by society, then we’ve succeeded, but even good kids with good parents make bad choices. 

I know mine have all made bad choices even though we’re doing the best we can to teach them right from wrong. 

I know it’s all part of growing up. We have to let them fail and let them fall so they can learn from it and (hopefully) make better choices the next time.

There are so many stories about my own children’s failures that I’d love to share but that wouldn’t be fair to them. So I’ll share some stories of other people’s children that I’ve heard.

For instance, the parents who told their kid not to do drugs, yet the child did drugs. Or the parents who warned their child to use protection when being intimate. That child got caught up in the moment and claimed it wasn’t available, (or so they said) and went ahead without it. 

How about the child who was always taught to be friendly to the new kid in school, but wasn’t.

Do any of these situations make us bad parents? Do any of these situations make them bad kids? Nope. These situations make us human. Because after all, we ALL make mistakes. 

Sometimes we want to make good choices, but the little devil on our shoulder encourages us to do the wrong thing. Sometimes we learn valuable lessons from this behavior and sometimes we don’t.

I was speaking to a friend recently about teenagers. She lamented about how so many adults in her circle of friends have written off all teenagers as being a group of misguided, entitled hooligans. There have been discussions on social media about “kids these days.” 

I actually believe that these kids are smarter than we were at their age. They seem to have figured out some things much younger in life than we did. Maybe the answer is just a matter of taking the time to get to know them, listen to them and treat them with respect. Yes, respect is a two-way street but they might just learn from our example.

As I’ve said before, I was raised in a household where “Children should be seen and not heard.”

Well that’s not the case in our home. My husband and I interact with our children as human beings. They have a heart and a brain. They can speak for themselves. They can express an opinion. They matter.

So maybe the rubric for successful parenting is just simply getting through it and being present. Surviving the infancy stage, the terrible twos, the even more incorrigible fours, the tween years, the teen years, the college age and so on, maybe that’s what it’s really about; being present and engaged. 

Even as adults with adult children, we never stop parenting. We’re just needed in a different way.

Men and women can be active participants in creating a child. It’s the men and women who actually step up and actively engage in the process as those children grow who become successful parents. I’m not talking about making lunches and wiping mouths. I’m talking about engagement. Perhaps knowing who your kids are, knowing where they are, knowing who they are with, what they like to do, et cetera, is what makes you a successful parent. 

We can’t check out because it gets hard. It’s hard from day one. It’s the most challenging job we will ever have, and the most rewarding. Hopefully the good days outweigh the bad ones, but we can’t control any of it.

Children are young for a very short time. My plan is to be everything I can to mine, even on the worst days, when they are making bad decisions. It’s my job to forgive mistakes and help encourage better choices. It’s my job to love them no matter what. It’s my job to be there, and (hopefully) I always will be.

Jennifer Lague writes from Derry.

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