“Promise me son not to do the things I’ve done”
—Kenny Rogers “Coward of the County”
Parents—mothers and fathers—will they never learn? Always wanting for their children what they didn’t have: a college education, a new car, pretty clothes, an easy time of it. Wanting their children to be better than they were, have better grades, be better behaved, be better athletes, prettier, wittier.
If children lived up to their parents’ expectations and parents succeeded in giving their children all they hoped for, we’d have a crop of the smartest, prettiest well-dressed athletes and beauty queens, generation after generation.
It’s a pretty safe bet neither children nor parenting are getting any better. Kids are still being made with the same weaknesses and strengths—equipped (or hampered) with the same human emotions—subjected to the same influences and pressures their adult counterparts were when they were growing up.
But kids try. Even after they’re no longer kids they continue to worry what Mom and Dad will think. Some complain bitterly that nothing they ever did was good enough. Some speak fondly of the sacrifices and so forth. Some speak of the strictness of the rules, the harshness of the punishment even if that punishment was nothing but the silent disappointment in a father’s eyes.
And parents continue trying. Long after their child has reached adulthood they still hurt when their child is hurt and their stomachs sink each time their child fails because they feel they’ve failed, too.
Why? It’s probably the responsibility each feels for the other. Parents feel responsible for how their kids have turned out because of their early influences and examples. The children feel their parents are living vicariously through them; what they become affects the way their parents will feel when they review their life’s accomplishments.
But there’s more. I believe a person never finds, even if he or she runs through 50 wives or husbands, the kid of unselfish, no-ulterior-motive-involved kind of love kids and parents express for one another. Kids always believe (even kids who have been abused by their parents) that their mothers are the prettiest, their fathers the strongest. Parents always want to believe—though they tend to be more realistic than children—that their children are the brightest and handsomest.
And isn’t it nice to have someone around who is so unashamedly biased in your favor? Who feeds your ego, makes you feel good—for no apparent selfish motive? It is that kind of love that is imitated and even recreated temporarily when two people first fall in love but that regrettably has to fade because of the self serving nature of the relationship. So, I hope parents never learn. And, by the way, have I told you about my son? He is the smartest thing….thinks I’m a great cook, tells me I’m pretty…I think I’ll buy him a bicycle for his birthday.
Published Monday, January 14, 1980, Courier News, Blytheville, AR.