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Len Anthony: On Parenting




len anthonyBy Len Anthony  ||  In my recent article regarding teenage use of alcohol, drugs and “hooking up,” I concluded that parents are primarily responsible for this behavior.  This conclusion was reached based upon a friend of mine’s philosophy that: “People behave the way they do because they can.”  Being a parent of a 20-year-old young man and 24-year-old young woman, I have struggled with how to be a good parent.

My father referred to me as “boy.”  When he told me to do something I was expected to do it immediately, no questions asked.  In the rare case when I summed the courage to ask “why,” the answer was “because I said so.”  He made it clear that I was not to lie, cheat, steal, curse, ever drink alcohol or “back talk.”  It was equally clear that if I did any of these things something really bad would happen to me.  I never tested him for two reasons: I was afraid of him and he left when I was 12 years old.  Thus, he was not there during my teenage years to mete out punishment when I broke a few of these rules.

I was never close to my father.  When he died I felt neither sorrow nor pain.

I committed to myself that I would not be like my father.  I would be there for my children, respect them, love them, never leave them, explain to them why they should not lie, cheat, steal, curse, or drink alcohol until the legal age and then do it in moderation, not use any type of illegal drugs, and always do the right thing.  I would set a good example.  Most importantly, I promised myself that when they asked “why?” I would provide a good reason for my rules.

Unfortunately, my brilliant parenting theory lacked a key consideration and element.  One of my goals was for my children to love me, like me, and be happy.  But my duty as a parent was to protect my children, keep them safe and teach them to be good, law abiding, decent people.  I had not factored into my grand theory that there would be times when fulfilling my duty as a parent would make my children unhappy and cause them to not like me, maybe not even love me.

A good parent accepts that consequence and fulfills his duties anyway.  It took me a long time to be a good parent.

When my children were unhappy, I was unhappy.  It created stress between my wife and me.  One day I realized that if what I am doing is best for my children, but it makes them unhappy, that is just part of having children and being a parent.  I also realized that when my children’s friends’ parents allow their children to do things my wife and I prohibit, that is not my problem.

Being a parent basically means being a benevolent army sergeant.  My epiphany caused me to remember the wise words of a great friend who is in his mid-70’s and is the father of four fine grown children.  One day several years ago I was telling him that if I told my son he could not do something it would make him unhappy.  My friend looked at me with a confused expression and said: “Judy and I never worried about whether our kids liked what we told them to do.”

So, moms and dads out there, be a good parent, make good children, someday they will love you for it.

Len Anthony spent thirty years as in-house counsel for a public utility. He’s now semi-retired living in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Wanna sound off on FITS? Submit your letter to the editor or opinion column HERE.

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