8 thoughts on “How to Be the Parent You Wish You Had

  • September 3, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    What an interesting article! I am the third child of four and following a severe TBI, I’ve had lots of recovery time to think about my life.

    My Dad is 92 and in a nursing home with an awful case of dementia. Mom is 89 and just home after a fall and broken hip.

    Its been very hard to be with Mom at the nursing home, as I have virtually no good memories of time with my Dad.

    I seem to have been Dad’s “slave” if you will. I was the one taken to the farm to work every weekend clearing land for pasture and moving sprinkler systems. I was the one taken to the mountains to help build the cabin.

    I taught myself auto mechanics and became Dad’s “go-to” for antique cars he bought, antique engines he bought, an old bulldozer he bought, all the family cars.

    Then I was called upon to fix things in the house, get the cable TV working, get the dishwasher working, you name it.

    I now see why my first wife refused to go to my parents house…all I did there was the things my Dad wanted.

    I turned out to be the one that paid his own way through college. Dad retired, my sister went out of state to college…and they couldn’t afford to help me. Maybe my grades weren’t good enough? For my entire life, neither parent said anything about my grades, checked to see if I was getting things done…nothing. So could they not afford to help me? Or was it unspoken punishment? I have no idea.

    Before Mom’s fall, about every other week I went to the nursing home with Mom, lifted 190lb Dad into the car, and took them to lunch. Lunch has been a 3+ hour event.

    I get mad when I think that one of those lunches is more face time with Dad, doing what he wants, than I got in several decades. Dad never had time for what I was interested in. I remember playing catch with Dad and my older brother once, when I was 6 or 7. Never happened again.

    I am a self made man. Got my college degree, completed a great 35 year career, have a wonderful second wife who has five children I helped finish raising, got them through the trials and tribulations of no father figure, and did my part to get them all on excellent footing and all have careers!!

    I was told in anger management classes, part of TBI therapy. That some parents see that a child is on the road to success, and thus focus on the others. Maybe so.

    I’m trying very hard to get past it. Writing this helps me get it out…


    • September 4, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Writing can be a pretty powerful tool for making sense of your life, and your emotions. I’m hoping that helping to raise those five children was a healing experience for you. Sometimes we work stuff out by writing, sometimes through our relationships, sometimes through classes and therapy. When you say you’re trying very hard to get past it, that’s half the work–just being willing to try.

      • September 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm


        Well…helping finish raising those five kids was not a healing experience. It was hell!

        How does the oldest, by then nearly 30, throw away a great career as a “network architect” by getting involved and then “cooking” meth? We had to dispose of all his belongings while he was incarcerated. Then had to get him back to living and rebuilding a life. But…he’s now married to his high school girlfriend who has a child.

        Next is daughter that I got moving to get her PMI cert and work for the Federal Highway Department as a project manager. But then married a guy that just doesn’t get what it means to be a “working man”, responsible, takes care of business, takes his role as a father seriously, and uses pot? So we hear about divorce, then doing fine, then divorce until it makes me sick.

        Middle is a son that just didn’t get a good start. When I met his Mother, he had just been busted with two friends for stealing a car. Rolled it, and when the police got there…he was sitting on the upside down car? Drugs, yes, poor choice of friends, yes. But after about five years of courts, and county jails, finally got him thinking. Got him an electrician apprenticeship and he did just great. Then quit a good job for…we still don’t know why. Then the “girlfriend from hell”…and more court stuff…and finally free. But take responsibility for himself and his needs…nope still a struggle.

        Fourth, a daughter, kept being 2nd or 3rd on the waiting list for 2 year nursing school. So took her to the university 100 miles from home, met with the dean of the 4yr nursing school, got things set up….but child didn’t say a word to me the whole way down or back home. But graduated Cum Laude, has a wonderful husband and two daughters and a great career. Guess who is the administrator of our trust, holder of our living wills, etc.

        Fifth is a son. Dropped out of school just as I met his Mother, before he turned 16…and what followed was seven years of pure hell. I could have killed that kid I don’t know how many times. Got me in trouble once after throwing him out of the house for cursing at his Mother because he was too busy watching a hockey game to mow the lawn. He spend the next year not working and living I have no idea where or on what. Finally, finally, he got his GED, and enlisted in the NAVY. Went to his boot camp graduation, and his Mother asked me, “what have they done with my son”. My response, they’ve started to make a Man out of him.
        Did four years in the NAVY and did great as a helicopter air frame mechanic. Got out, came home and went to school to get his FAA A&P license, did that in two years. Got an associate degree, got the A&P on the first try. Now nearly complete getting his bachelor’s in Aeronautics. Has a wonderful “significant other”.

        So its been a challenge, but worthy of the effort. My wife told me many times that I did not have to stay. My response was always “in for a penny in for a pound”.

        My honest thought has been the good Lord looked down and said “you have much to offer and need something to do” and “Mom, you need some help”. So he put us together, and the rest is history!!

      • September 4, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        I guess the most you can ask is that you’re given a challenge that’s worthy of the effort. One man’s healing is another man’s hell, huh? 🙂

  • September 3, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Impressive discussion and exactly what I did when raising my son 27 years ago. To this day, I still have this philosophy. What I have learned from this experience is that we are all human. As humans we are naturally imperfect. How can we expect perfection in our own parents if this cycle is repeated generation upon generation. Imperfect beings raising children….the progress is slow. But understanding this then allows us to view the imperfections with clarity. What works, what doesn’t? We can learn a lot from what didn’t work for us and commit to not making those same mistakes with our own children. But breaking old habits, generations old can be hard work. I can humbly say, I did the best I could but was far from perfect. But love is perfect and doing all that one can with a loving spirit is offering the best they can. I also found that humility was critical in my direct relationship with my son….apologizing when I realized I did things incorrectly or in ways that manifested negative results. I took responsibility, asked for his understanding and forgiveness. His ability then to see me as a flawed human being allowed him to see me as a growing, evolving being as well in relationship with him. To this day we still are growing, learning, evolving and realizing the gift we have in our love for each other.

    • September 4, 2014 at 9:23 am

      I think owning our mistakes is actually a form of self-compassion. We don’t have to beat ourselves up; we have to apologize to the people we’ve wronged and do better in the future. But you’re right, it’s a hard change to make, with no models. Glad to hear about the positive relationship you have with your son.

  • September 4, 2014 at 6:15 pm


    Well, at least its nearly all in distant or getting distant past. I’ve survived a severe TBI. I was able to go back to work for the last three years and retire. So life is very good for me and my wife, er BOSS!

    As my VP said years ago, your place in heaven is confirmed, you’ve done your time in purgatory!!

    Keep working to make life better, to stay active and try to figure out how to interface with Grandchildren. Tough when I never had kids!!

    Another learning experience on my journey through life!!!


    • September 5, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Always more to figure out, but glad life is good! Wishing you all the best,


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