Recently I have been thinking about fatherhood, in terms of when your children are, well, no longer children. What do you see as the father's role and responsibilities in helping his young adult progeny? How should a father shift from more hands on and rule setting parenting to his new role as more of an adviser or guide to early adulthood?
I think an interesting follow up to this discussing which should be a forum in its own right is, how and should the responsibilities and the treatment of young adult progeny differ between sons and daughters?
Still trying to work through that issue.
I have a daughter headed off to college and a son who will be a senior next year. To say it has been hard is an understatement. Everyone tells you that you need to let go, to trust what you've taught them and trust that they'll keep that filter going, that they have to be able to fail and pick themselves up again. Much easier said than done. Even my wife is having difficulty with this. I am thinking that the best thing to do is to hide under a rock somewhere for the next few years until they have worked it all out (d;D).
I read your reply with interest. Our children have been out of the nest and "on their own" for many years now. Our first went to college 20 years ago. I remember being advised to take lots of Kleenex with me when I drove him to college 100 miles from our home. The tissue was not for him but for me. ("Much easier said than done" is more than accurate.) The balancing act of giving advice, helping out, staying in the background, meddling, and letting go has to be customized. I was talking with our older son this weekend. He is 39. We were discussing some family issues and I told him that I'm sure that his mom and I didn't immediately get the knack of knowing when to speak and when to be silent, when to encourage and when to let experience do the teaching. Yet, all three of our children and their spouses now come to us for advice with ease and are grateful, it seems, for the wisdom we can impart. But, that type of trust and respect has taken time to mature in all of us. The flip side of the coin is that my wife and I now can rely on our kids for being there for the two of us when we need it.
If what I've written sounds idealist and "everyone lived happily ever-after," don't read it that way. Over the past 20 years plus, we've had major crises that all of us have had to deal with. Difficult experiences with our children that, at the time, I would never want to go through again. Yet, I know that we would go through them again without batting an eye because of our love and commitment to our children and grandchildren and to their marriages and their families.
Thanks for your reply, Rick. We, too, are "Still trying to work through that issue."
I have always believed, and have said so here from time to time, that the most important, the only thing a parent can truly give a child, is a good example. If you give your children a good example, you will have given them everything they need. If you fail to give them a good example, though you give them everything else under the sun, you will have given them nothing.
This does not mean they will always do what you do, or even that they should or that you should try and force them into your footsteps. The example you give should also include finding your own way, making your own mind, making mistakes and dealing with the consequences.
The giving of an example is not something that ever ends. Whatever stage of life they are going through, you went through first. Eventually, they will remember you going through the stage they are. They may even forgive you, and perhaps, in their own way, begin to understand.
I have 3 kids - 13, 10 , 7. As a father my role is to show respect and caring for their mother, as an example on how my son should treat his wife and hopefully what my girls should expect from a husband. I hope I am displaying a strong work ethic, doing your duty in all conditions and without exception, not complaining. I would like to believe they are starting to learn the importance of following God's will. The need for family, friends and serving in your community. Making sure we reduce our footprint by using it up and wearing it out and finally recycling when we are done with it. Live your life continuing to learn, by life lessons, self taught and a formal education. Showing respect to all living things, I hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors but I do not kill or do harm needlessly.
When I left my parents home at 17 I was allowed to make some bad decisions, had a few successes but I always had the ear and support of my parents, the things I mentioned above formed the framework of my life going forward, I was taught these things by my Dad and in turn hope I have passed these on to my kids. So I guess what I am saying is as they become young adults and start to leave the nest if the job was done right early on the next step is just building on the previous.
I have not reached the time when my kids are ready to leave but I can only pray that I am laying the foundation for their success. There will be failures and like my parents I will be there to advise, discuss and lend a hand when necessary.