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The Parent Trap

A parent’s job is often unenviable. Thankless. Tiring. Trying. Tireless. Especially when the child is a teenager.

Parents’ reasons for making decisions can vary from encouraging their children to “live their own lives, do what makes you happy” and worries that what makes their children happy won’t pay their bills, let alone save for retirement, nor eventually be able to help support their parents in their later years.

Yet, for the teenager, as William Deresiewicz asserts in Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, their duty is to rebel, risk disappointing their parents, learn to live without parental approval, in order to gain the intellectual and emotional freedom to be themselves.  Which to some degree, I hear most parents seek (or secretly desire) from their children.  As one parent once told me beyond earshot of her daughter, “If she doesn’t argue back with reason and a conviction, based on an understanding of herself, then, I’m going to make the decisions for her.”

Parents often gain respect for their children when they “rebel”, yet few parents tell their kid to rebel. So, basically parenting can often feel like living in contradiction, ranging from being a “mom knows best” authoritarian, to the “cool mom” who “respects my kid’s own ideas for themself.”

Yet, effective parenting requires continuous reflection, reasoning, and revising.  Then, kids learn that to be a parent is to be human. And, what greater gift can a parent give their kids, then to teach them, by example, what it means to be human?