Whether it’s from single parents, couples, or combos of people, almost everyone responsible for raising a child struggles with the notion of how to be a good parent. And by ‘struggle’ people generally mean they’re certain they’re transferring their worst faults to their kid and that freaks them out. Fortunately it doesn’t have to. Everyone can relax.
My Dad is an absolutely brilliant parent and it was easy. He only went to grade eight. You would call him clever but not notably smart. He owned a little company and did okay but he was no brilliant businessman nor did he get rich.
Considering how much time every kid spends with their parents like most people, I recall very little of our total time spent together. But what I do remember very clearly is his leadership through life. I remember how he lived no matter where we were.
Dad never really taught me anything directly. He didn’t sign me up for classes or have here’s how it is talks. He just lived and let me watch things, and he answered questions when I asked.
Fortunately –and this is important– it turns out that’s what really what matters most when it comes to succeeding as a parent. They have to see value in us, and then model something enjoyable and effective.
I still want to be more like him today, although now more consciously. We’ll never be exactly like them because we all also have a Mom that most of us spend more time with, so they’re often the bigger influence on us.
My Dad is truly remarkable in that he’s well over 90 and I’ve literally never seen him angry or sad in my life. His dementia can now leave him frustrated, but that’s only due to his lack of understanding.
Despite his soft nature, I’ve seen him be strong in the face of adversity or even challenge danger, but not with anger. I’ve seen him deeply concerned for the welfare of others but never sad. I’ve never heard him put down anyone. I’ve never even really heard him complain.
The other thing I got from Dad is a sense of spirit about life. He’d survived Scarlet Fever, The Depression, and a terrible and violent father. Her served in WWII and was just about to be transferred from Europe to Asia in WWII when they dropped The Bomb.
He saw men getting off the ships and trains, blind, or with missing limbs. He knew well what war was like. And everyone then lost friends and family. All of that made being alive that much more important to him and he instilled that in me: it is important to enjoy our lives.
The ways Dad creates his own joy is mostly through assisting others. He just really loves to help, or to bring relief. And because it brings a lot of joy to people I also saw him as a constant source of positivity to others.
The reason he realized someone was facing a challenge he could help with was because he was extra-aware. Dad never thinks about himself much, which is why he’s never angry or sad about his circumstances. He’s too busy thinking about others.
Being invested in other people is a lost art. Everyone’s connected and no one’s connecting. Dad never listened to be polite. He truly always wants to know what’s going on for other people.
He loves hearing about other exciting things in people’s lives and he’s extremely good at being genuinely happy for them. He doesn’t dwell on sadness nor commiseration but he’s as with-you as someone can be.
If you just need to be in pain for a while, Dad’s good at just being there without asking for people to rush the processes of feeling better. That is particularly rare and kind.
When I get asked why my Dad is so great I’ll mention his emotional stability and decency, but that’s not the main reasons I think he’s so good. That’s because he’s invested. He’s always been interested.
He actively cared. And he’s always been supportive. I’ve had a crazy life pursuing crazy dreams and so many of them have come true, and so many times he was the only person who didn’t think I was crazy to pursue them.
I love my life despite the usual calamities. It’s no coincidence that I also had a parent who simply loved their kid through their earnest interest in that kid’s life. If your child’s life is unfolding as though what is happening to them is a part of the greatest story you’ve ever read then you will have done an enormous service to your child.
Too many adults think they have to be amazing, but that’s not what’s most important. But if our culture starts valuing a parent’s interest in a child as being far more important than what they teach or provide for, the children will be better off.
There is no greater way to inoculate a human being against long term failure than to instill in them the idea that, regardless of what’s going on, they always truly matter. Do that and they’ll almost always do great.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.