When our daughter was young and regularly wore pink, she would sit at our dining room table, feet not even big enough to touch the ground, and I would sit at my make-believe throne. I would harangue my daughter to eat her breakfast, go to school, do her homework, clean her room, etc., etc.
I would bellow out to do this and do that. I wasn’t trying to be mean, I was just trying to help her and give her the direction she needed. King Brian was in full command. In my mind at least, I wore a crown of jewels and commanded on high.
However, I’ve noticed that as my kids have grown and have gotten older that my role as parent has changed. I’ve gone from handing down decisions and stone tablets on high to listening to their worries and dreams and offering an occasional bit of advice. The role is different for each kid, depending on their age, but has changed from stern parent to trusted mentor.
Lecturing to listening
For example, I talked last week with my daughter, now a grown women for all intents of purposes, and listened quietly as she talked excitedly about her schedule next semester.
She burst with excitement about the teachers she would have, topics in her major that she would be diving into, and the summer internship she was trying to earn. I sat transfixed.
She has dreams, big ones too, and is aggressively going after them. She talked so fast and so full of passion and love that my head spun. Had I ever felt that? Did I talk like that about my own studies, my own career? I hope so.
At one point, she asked: “hey dad what do think about my schedule? Do you think I should change anything?” I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want her to think I was laughing at her. In reality, I was laughing at myself. “Um, really, you’re asking me?”
In reality, in this instance anyway, she really did know best. I’m not a proponent of being a child’s “friend,” but she knew best how big of workload she could and could not handle.
A changing relationship
Our relationship has changed so much over the years. I lecture very little now. Why should I? She’s well on her way. I can give her some advice, but she knows what she wants and is working hard to achieve it. I find now that I’m more a cheerleader than a stern disciplinarian. The student has become the master.
The last bit of parenting I really gave her came a few months ago when I offered some advice to her on the best student loan rate to choose, but even then it was more of a trusted mentor offering some help, someone who has faced the same challenges, rather than her dad telling her what to do.
I loved being the know-it-all parent. It was fun while it lasted, but I have to say, this new stage is pretty cool too. (My relationship with my daughter has changed, but I still get to be the stern disciplinarian parent with my sons. They’re younger and still need the occasional reminder to do their chores and keep up with their school work.)
In any event, I went to bed later that night proud of the daughter my wife and I have raised, but even more excited about the well-adjusted, ready-to-tackle-the-world, take-no-prisoners woman she has become.