Now that children are grown up, parents can act like kids again
All things considered, it was a very good Father’s Day.
Sure, I had to mow the lawn myself since my son went off and earned a college degree and got himself a real job. I’m pretty certain it was all those years of running the mower over the lawns of two grandmothers, as well as the one overseen by his picky father, that provided significant career motivation.
And, at the family barbeque Sunday evening, we had to make do with my sister-in-law’s salad in the absence of over-the-top greenery and other kitchen wizardry from my daughter, though the substitute salad was actually very good.
In our family, we’re well past the hand-drawn cards and last-minute presents that marked earlier times when Jessica and Tony were teaching us how to be parents. We’re now at the stage where appreciating the fact that the four of us somehow muddled through, finally reaching the stage where it’s enough the kids are the grown-ups and the parents are old enough to get away with acting like kids again.
It’s also been an eventful time at the extreme ends of our family cycle.
Despite the protests of one of the youngest members of the family, he’s about to become big brother to a sister scheduled to arrive just in time to throw a monkey wrench into my nephew’s hunting season. Having some experience with raising a daughter, I’ve refrained from telling Ryan and Sara that Weston’s “terrible twos” will seem like a walk on the beach when the pending addition to their family hits her teenage years.
And, a week or so ago, while mucking out about 4,000 square feet of house and barn in Crested Butte, we were sorting through trash and treasures accumulated during nearly 90 years of Spehar ownership. As a result, there’s an ancient, gold-framed formal portrait of my great-grandparents now hanging in the house after being recovered from a trunk up in the second story of the barn. I don’t think I’ve ever seen their images before.
I did receive a couple of “gifts” on Father’s Day.
From my daughter, it came in the form of a post on Facebook, a phenomenon her recalcitrant father had to read on his wife’s page, since he refuses to sign up for yet another opportunity to waste time on his computer.
If, in addition to adding Elvis and Bob Dylan (as well as Ernest Tubb) to her playlist, I’ve indeed taught her the importance of owning up to mistakes and making things right, of following dreams, of family, of writing, then I suppose I’ve done a decent job of being a father
But she is her father’s daughter, so I guess we both get a deduction for the “my way or the highway” attitudes that have spiced up our father-daughter thing.
From my son, it was the sheer joy of spending most of a phone call listening to him talk with justifiable pride about his recent spate of 12- and 13-hour days reporting on the Black Forest fire for the Colorado Springs television station where he now works and of being sure to tell the people stories as well as covering official announcements. This same kid, once fearful of interviewing coaches for the Grand Junction High School yearbook, was part of a team that won an Emmy award for news reporting while at his first job in Indiana.
If there’s anything we did right as parents, it was realizing early on that we’d lose control. That meant resisting the impulse to direct everything and instead trying to instill values that would be there when we couldn’t be, to help our kids learn that actions have consequences and that those consequences, good and bad, were theirs to deal with.
It’s not gifts or cards that make Father’s Day (or Mother’s Day) complete. It’s knowing you’ve stumbled through your part of the job well enough to raise a couple of great kids who are successfully navigating a world your great-grandparents couldn’t have imagined while posing for that dusty portrait.
“If it weren’t for selective memory, nobody would ever have a second child.” — Anonymous.