6.09.2008

F Train

Parenting is like a subway line. Maybe the F train, I liked that one the best. There is a really long tunnel the connected subway cars pass through. There are platforms (openings in the tunnel) that provide an opportunity for people to get on and off. Some people get on at the start and stay on until the end. Some people only get on for 1 stop and stay a short time on the train. Others let the train pass and wait for another. Some new passengers get on at almost every stop, in addition to some long-time riders getting off at almost every stop.

We learn to parent (and essentially be the type of person we are even if we don't have children yet or ever) by the background experiences we have had in addition to new things we learn. That includes a long line of family members we have learned some things from whether we like it or not. I have generations of women long before who probably yelled at the children for putting their fingers on the walls long before my grandmother scolded me for it in her home. Or perhaps not, perhaps that was a new one she decided to add to her toolbelt of things that were imporant to her- a clean home.

I have become the mother (and person) I am by the unbringing I had with input my parents felt was important and they gathered that from their parents providing what they thought was most important. Just like the train, each generation gets to add and ditch pieces of that based on what they think is best for their family.

It would be an intersting study to follow generations of parenting to record the common threads among each generation. I love to hear about different traditions and parenting styles carried on or changed; it is all very fascinating to me.

With this thought comes a progression of understanding I hope to remember when my children head off to start their own families. I hope I can remember they will marry women brought up differently than I was rasied, even differently than my boys will be raised. There will be some overlap, similar passengers on the train car if you will, however there will be newness I might not think is best. I might expect, as natural to us all, that my way is the best and most correct. After all, that is why we make the choices we make to raise our children- we want the absolute best for them and provide that in the priorities we determine based on our revised, new definition of that. I have to remember to trust that my boys and their wives will not be on the F train. For once they go their own ways with their own families a new train line is formed, the tracks merging from our F train and the tunnel each respective wife came from.

That is going to be hard. I will love my grandchildren and want the best for them and expect that to look like the choices I made when I was teaching my little men. But it will not be and I will have to remember that the experiences I gave my kids are theirs to take or leave along with the things their wives take or leave from their own tunnels in life. Picking up gems of advice and knowledge gained along the way blended with upbringing.

The punchline is there is no perfect collection of decisions, there is no perfect way for all families to do this. There is no one parenting template perfect for all children or all generations. So even if we somehow get it right for our boys, what's right and makes sense for them isn't entirely how it should be done for their friends or ultimately their children.

My mom never cared about fingerprints on the walls, I think she had specific things that drove her nuts as a kid and that was one of them. She probably knew from age 5 that would never be a rule in her home as a mommy. I was just thinking recently how I might bring that rule into my new home and carry on my grandma's torch of clean, fingerprintless walls. I should give her a call and find out if that was her own or a gem of generations past.
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