Earn It, Earnie

The cop-out of “I did the best I could” is only ever said when a person, in truth, didn’t do the best they could. I mean really did the best they could. They might have thought so on a surface examination of their time but, most often, an exhaustive breakdown reveals hours split with greater preference and performance elsewhere.

The kids, the raising, the parenting, the teaching and coaching and correcting and loving, that was in proximity to everything else. A tag along to other, more valued, investments.

“Doing your best” isn’t good enough anymore. “Doing your best” brought up a generation with so many mental health problems, ill-equipped, neglected, emotionally illiterate, and incapable of emulating the broken relationships they were born of.

Doing your best” was never the answer, anyway. Effort is pointless without a strategy, an intent to learn, and a mind to improve. If you’ve ever worked on anything even modestly complex, you understand the distinction between a first-pass effort and a deep-dive effort.

Like a car. You can turn wrenches and strip screws and bang metal with heavier metal. But if you never opened up that manual, did a quick search of function, form, and fit, grabbed the proper tool, and executed a systematic plan, well, that car is as good as scrap.

This is parenting. REAL parenting — Taking the time to think and orient your energy for the ones you are raising. It’s not an activity in passing or an idle consult. It’s not something that just happens.

Investing in your kids means more than just teaching them. It means showing them, sharing with them, exploring with them, letting them explore on their own, failing with them, encouraging them, being vulnerable with them, and letting them go.

Their journey to significance will be marked by trial and error, correction and wanderlust, and support and independence — by success and failure.

If You Can Be There

If you can be there to hold their hand when they need it, when they might not want it, when their fingers are small, and when they’ve grown big and callused;

If you can be there in the background as they take center stage;
If you can be the back that covers them from the arrows as they sleep;
If you can cheer them as they embark on marvelous journeys far from the protection of home;
If you can be there when they return with trophies or bruises;
If you can be there when they want to build with you, when they want to color, when they want to play dress-up, when they want to learn how to do an oil change, when they need help with their homework, or buying a car, or getting a mortgage;
If you can be there to dance with them as they transition from diapers to pull-ups;

If you can be there now, today, in this moment, and, perhaps the next, I can say — with a degree of confidence — you will be there to dance with them as you place their hand into anothers’.

And then, with the fullness of time when your life has been full and ripe, your dance will be done.

And so they will dance with the ones you’ve entrusted them to, and with their kids, and in all their steps through life. A dance, perhaps, not unlike the one you first shared with them, but uniquely their own.

Building Blocks and Stepping Stones

For now, though, keep on stacking those blocks — stop trying to make your kids love you, stop trying to change them, stop trying to turn them into a mini-you.

Earn your work, till the fields, yield the crop, be not about yourself.

Sun and moon, bright fields of lavender in the lowlands and wildflowers hidden high up on the mountains, the elegant flavors of dusk and dawn.

These two are opposites. In almost every way, this photo captures the essence of their characters so completely. My children are perfectly unique. So are yours. They are not us, though they are cut of our flesh; they are not one another though they are raised under the same roof; they are not like anyone else.

Our job is not to mold them but to guide them. To help them overcome their weakness and grow their strengths. To teach them how to fail and how to stand. To show them the tears of forgiveness and the love of laughter.

They will forge their paths in their ways on the way to discover who they are and how they fit in this world. Whether we intend to or not, our parenting styles, our actions, our mistakes, our apologies, our passions, and our examples will be the first toolkits they use to traverse life.

I implore you, do your best but do it better.

Cheers, folks.

This article was originally published at Medium. Republished with permission from the author.