Throughout our tenure as parents, we’re often privileged to attend school athletic contests, plays, musicals, variety shows, etc., in which our adolescents and teenagers are participating. Mom beams with pride realizing that the dress she helped sew is holding together during her daughter’s dance number. Dad just knows that his kid is the star of the show or game, even if his son is playing the tree or warming the bench. Those days of picking up our young singers, actors and athletes after practice or driving them to school or church in the evening for rehearsals finally pay off when we see and celebrate the results of their preparation and hard work.
From preparation to performance
Practice. Preparation. Hard work. We can’t think of a better terms to define the process of growing up. We have heard it said that the early years of a person’s development comprise the preparation. Later, it’s all about performance—education, career, marriage, parenthood, community service. A successful performance is the result of practice and preparation.
Dad as coach
Dad, think of yourself as a coach. Think of your parenting years as practice. It’s not so important that you get everything right. After all, it’s called practice. What is important is that you realize it’s practice for you and for your son or daughter. If practice is simply demanding that your teenager mirror everything you do and say, then you’re not allowing space for your child’s creativity and individuality. If being a parent-coach is laying down a set of inflexible rules and shouting orders, that might be considered practice to produce an automaton, but it’s not preparation for creating an independent-thinking son or daughter. Success in life comes from being prepared to improvise and adapt to all the U-turns and hurdles that life will present.
Parenting is practicing
Dad, be fair to yourself, too. Those years when you are driven to the brink of madness because your teenagers are practicing acting grown-up, experienced, brilliant and all-knowing –take it easy, back off and practice your responses. Dads love to control and fix things. But we need to practice leaving things in pieces and allow our teenagers the freedom to pick up those pieces and put their own puzzles together. Dads, we could use a little practice at unfixing things.
A performance of a lifetime
It goes back to each of us having a personal public relations program. Along with practicing, we parents have earned the right to do a little preaching. While we are helping our children prepare for their life performances, they must also understand that their youth will purchase a measure of forgiveness only for a while. There will come a time when they will be thrust into the spotlight and held accountable for their performance. What they do with what they have learned through years of practice, preparation and hard work will have a lasting impact, and will hopefully make you proud.