The Rewards of Fatherhood, Fitness and Frugality
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Do-It-Yourself Parenting

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How tempting is it to go it alone? The American spirit celebrates the individual and treats achievements as if they were all self obtained. So each one of us has a little something in us that makes us want to be a trailblazer. We’ll look at someone doing something with ease and skill and think emphatically to ourselves, “I can do that.”

I’ve done it myself. I’ve seen a furnace put into a buddy’s rental property and after it was said and done, I thought I knew a few things about installing furnaces. I’ve tackled small plumbing jobs around the house on my own. I have even given myself a haircut. I have had varying degrees of success with each endeavor. I won’t go into details. But I will say that my degree of success was highly correlative to the amount of time and effort I put into practicing and studying the endeavor prior to attempting it which was very little.

I am a true believer that anyone, given enough time and the right tools, can learn to do anything. The question becomes, should anyone do anything. The answer is probably no. Especially if it’s not their forte or they don’t derive any pleasure from developing the skill. As the saying goes, the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. The only thing I’d add to that is you must enjoy the thing you’re practicing. So after performing some of the aforementioned tasks for myself and assessing the successes (eh-hem, cough, cough) I have had with each, I think I’m going to delegate and leave those things to the experts from now on.

I think parenting falls in the category of something that should be practiced extensively before it is attempted. How does one practice parenting before he or she is a parent? Well, there are a few ways I can think of. For instance, as a parent you may want your children to avoid fast foods but you don’t cook. You might want to practice cooking some kid friendly meals. Try ’em out on the neighbor kid. If his parents don’t mind and he doesn’t gag then you’re on to something. Maybe you might want to volunteer to be the designated babysitter for a month for all your friends’ children. If your friends don’t have kids, that lady with the 14 kids is definitely going to need some assistance.

While it’s preferrable to practice and mess up on someone else’s children, you might just have to practice and mess up on your own. Yeah, I can hear you saying, you don’t want to mess up on your own children. Well, my viewpoint is, they have you for a parent so your kids are going to be messed up in some way that you had something to do with. The beauty of it is, we are all in the same boat. We are all going to mess up our kids in some way no matter how hard we try to be perfect parents. But this doesn’t preclude us from trying to do everything right no matter how futile the exercise. And it doesn’t mean we will fail as parents.

One thing is for certain though. Parenting (at least in my view) is a do-it-yourself endeavor. No delegating here. I believe that even goes for parents who aren’t that good at being parents or who aren’t so good as people. One caveat though. Those folks have to have at least one trait to compensate for their lack of skill. They have to be willing to do all it takes to get better at parenting. There are those that will say some people shouldn’t be parents. (It was recently suggested to me that poor people shouldn’t have children.) That may be true. But some of those same people that shouldn’t be parents, are. My hope is that those folks have that “I’ll try my best” trait. I would bet money, the kids of those parents will be happy in the long run.

While many things should be delegated, parenting isn’t one of them. And I’m not talking about using babysitters and getting help with your children. I’m not advocating home schooling. I have no position on that. I’m not talking about seeking the help and opinion of others. I’m just saying that when it comes to shaping who a child will become as an adult, it is the parents job to take the reins there. Even if that means that parent has to practice, practice, practice and make a few mistakes in the process to get the job right.

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1 dan gibson { 02.11.09 at 6:19 pm }

There are no hard and fast rules to being a good parent , the idea is try as best you can to give your child all the advantages and sage advise possible.I don’t believe laying down positive expectations for a child can hurt , i.e. the question is not , whether or not little danny is going to college,but rather which college he wants to attend.

2 Ben { 02.11.09 at 6:37 pm }

to: Dan Gibson

I agree. Having some expectation of your child is a positive thing. I was just having a conversation yesterday about placing expectations on a child. That conversation was more about whether we should expect our children to excel in every aspect of life or encourage them to “specialize” and be exceptional in one or two. What feels right to me is some combination of both. But I’m certainly settled on “there are no hard and fast rules”.

3 Tracy { 02.11.09 at 9:05 pm }

I think one of the key lines here for a parent is: “They have to be willing to do all it takes to get better at parenting”. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say it is easy work to be a parent. Setting goals for yourself and your child(ren) are important and try to establish good habits such as “work time” and “play time”. Children in turn learn good behavior patterns and begin to respect the difference between the two.

4 Maria { 02.11.09 at 10:09 pm }

yup! i agree – practice, practice, practice…eventually by the time you practice on the 14th child you MAY get it right…

5 Amelia { 02.12.09 at 10:47 am }

Yes, its definitely do-it-yourself. Two things that are important to me is showing by example & dating your kids. By dating I just mean putting aside that special time just for them. I love asking my kids about their day. When I do, they tend to go on and on about it. Its like the perfect ending to a rough day :-)

6 Wenylla { 02.17.09 at 12:12 pm }

I feel the same way about painting: “I prefer to leave it to the professionals”. All jokes aside, parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love, but you gotta be in it to win it.

7 Mocha Dad { 02.18.09 at 4:30 pm }

Too many people have delegated their parenting responsiblities to schools, churches, the government, and others. There is more to raising a child than keeping a roof over his/her head.

8 Keith { 02.22.09 at 12:44 pm }

I think there is definitely some on the job training involved, but I’m not sure you can practice before you have kids. The things you want for your own kids tend to be different than what you want for your neighbor’s kids. Also, that whole love thing tends to play a role role in decisions that you make for your own kids. Can you practice some simple skills like cooking and changing a diaper? Sure. But when it’s all said and done I doubt you can practice for the box of chocolates that parenting is.

9 Ben { 02.25.09 at 8:20 pm }

@Keith: I agree in part. Some things can’t be practiced. But I think folks should have children consciously, have a plan for how they’ll raise them and the method by which they will do so. It’s an ethereal process. But I think an essential one. Even thought we all know at some point that parent will deviate, it’s important to have a philosophical base.

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