My granddaughter Claire growing up.
I was sitting in a transfer bus traveling from the Seattle Hilton to SEA-TAC (Seattle) airport. Across from me sat a man who was telling his eleven-ish year old son a story. It sounded as though, from my point of view, the story was being created as it was being told. The boy was totally enthralled with the story as his father masterfully weaved his way through an elaborate tail consisting of costumes, adventures and crazy characters. The father and the son often times played the characters as the depth and detail of the story continued to grow. It was truly a joy to listen to and watch.
As I saw this story unfold, I experienced some heart ach that at first I was somewhat uncertain about; but eventually realized that the feeling resulted from something missing in my life. To be candid, my father and I never engaged in anything remotely similar to what this young boy was experiencing. In fact, I was very envious of the child’s relationship with his father!
Over time, I have come to the realization that parenting skills are a result of generations of love, abuse, neglect, caring and the general uncertainty and chaos of life. What my mom and dad experienced as children is what limited their skills as a parent; what my grandparents experienced was what fashioned their parenting skills. So, my skills as a parent are in some way related to generations of family rearing! Despite my best efforts, I have always felt like a man with no arms trying to swim through the almost certain turmoil of raising children. I feel as though I never witnessed first hand what a father should or could be. While raising my children, quite often I wanted to reach out and say or do the right thing, but always felt unprepared and somewhat lost. Sitting in that bus watching the delight in that boy’s eyes reminded me of the emptiness I have felt most of my life.
I guess the purpose of this story is to remind others and myself of the complexities of love and family. It is important to remember that we are a collection of bits, pieces and genes randomly glued together over many generations to make us who we are. My father, despite his lack of skills as a parent, was a good person but also a product of his family environment. At this point in my life, I am sure he wrestled with the same feelings I have. He is gone now so I will never get the chance to discuss all of this with him even though I am pretty certain given his temperament, it could not have been discussed while he was alive.
So now I have three children who are grown and making their way through life. I often wonder if I have somehow been as good a parent as I could have been. I wonder as well if my wife and I have given them enough love and family closeness that they do not experience the emptiness I experienced. My best guess is that it takes several successful generations of parenting to create a really great parent. My hope is that we have been at least been somewhat reasonably successful.