Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mom and Dad

I'm curious about something. Are you game?

I have two questions for you.

#1: What would you say was your parents' greatest achievement in raising you?

#2: What would you say was your parents' greatest failure in raising you?

Part two of this post will be up Friday after you've had time to ruminate on your answers here. (Feel free to answer anonymously if you'd prefer.)


Aniket said...

Some very tough questions you've put up there Jason.

There are many great achivements for them, but as the very word greatest means greater than the rest, I would have to say that they gave me the freedom of choice. Something which didn't exist in my family a generation before. People did what the family or social norms compelled them to do. Like my parents are very very religious people. And I on the other hand am an agnostic. This hurts my parents in some ways, and they've tried several times to talk me into believing, but never forced anything on me. They never forbade me to eat non-vegetarian food, never forbade me for marrying a girl from a differnet caste, etc. They always gave me a choice to chose the roads I wished to travel on, which may seem trivial but means a lot to me.

Greatest failure,,, hmm... its a tougher one. I would have to see the lack of interest they showed in thins I was inclined to other than studies. I liked to create games on C/C++ at school. And they were displayed for parents in the annual day celebrations and was very enthused about showing it to them. The same goes when I played for them my first song on the guitar, or invited them to watch a play I participated in. They always came, always appreciated, but my dad's pat on the back was always followed by the statement 'You are immensely talented, you know. If only you put your mind into studies, you could do wonders.'
I know that he was always right when he said that, and I know I always wanted to run away from studies (who doesn't?) but all I wanted for them was to let me cherish that one moment, let me savor the happiness of doing something I loved to do, and not something I SHOULD do. But they only said that coz they had my best interst in their hearts. After all, to survive in this world, one needs to do things people EXPECT you to do, most of the time you may not love it.

That said, they are the most wonderful people I know, and I love them to the core.
I couldn't have possibly asked for a better family.

the walking man said...

#1: What would you say was your parents' greatest achievement in raising you?...Not trying to stop me from leaving home at 17.

#2: What would you say was your parents' greatest failure in raising you?...Assuring me that I was to stupid to go further in school than the 12th grade.

Stephen Parrish said...

Oh, what a question. I'm grateful to my parents for the opportunities they gave me. I'm critical of their lack of passion.

There are three essential things a parent needs to do for a child:

1. Love the child. And show it. This is the root of all self-esteem.

2. Create opportunities for the child. A boy hell-bent on becoming an astronomer ought to have access to a telescope.

3. Demonstrate, through their own behavior, that life is an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved.

Aniket said...

WOW Stephen! If only every parent followed these 3 rules.

Almost all of them follow the first one. But its the 2 and 3rd at shape the attitude of the kid for the rest of his life.

Am so glad I read your comment.

Anonymous said...

Their greatest achievement raising me is that I made it this far.

I would also really like to thank them for my love of books.

I don't think they have a greatest failure. Whatever failure there is, is on my shoulders not theirs. I'm lucky, I had some really good parents.

Kaycie said...

My parents were very good at providing me with self esteem and confidence in myself.

When I was growing up, my parents were strict which was not necessarily a bad thing. But they were also quite controlling and I was a compliant child, which resulted in difficulty in making my own decisions and a rebellion in college which confounded them. They handled it in the same controlling manner (doing things like picking my car up from school without telling me and insisting that I spend every weekend at home). I married young (and chose poorly) to get away.

My parents and I have developed (finally) a fairly normal, adult relationship. I'm happy, healthy, and well adjusted now, but I still get angry when I think about my college years, and their controlling behavior is at the top of my "what not to do when parenting" list.

Sarah Hina said...

Excellent questions and responses, Jason.

#1: I think I enjoyed more intellectual and physical freedom than most kids. Curiosity was encouraged, and there were few of the normal high school rules (maybe because we were all such squares). They were available to me.

#2: Unfortunately, the expectations that went along with that "freedom" were much more rigid. I always felt under their control, and hadn't the slightest notion of what I wanted for too long a time (which is partially on me, too). A parent's disappointment, and disapproval, can be crushing burdens.

(Speaking of parents...gotta go visit my father-in-law; a whole another topic for discussion ;))

Aine said...

Wow-- some really great comments so far. I need to think a bit more before I answer.

I'll be back!

Just call me Church Lady said...

Haven't been here in a long time, and boy do I come back to an interesting post!

(btw, even though you were so so cute in the photo with the glasses, I feel your pain. I don't want to say more for fear of offending you, but I just wanted to say I don't take lightly that you felt out of place)

Parents. Well, my closest friends know how fucked up my childhood was. So, I would say when they weren't making me watch religious television or attempting to brainwash me with the impending armageddon, their total disconnect with reality allowed me to go out with cool boys and smoke pot.

While I have zero belief in religion, I deeply believe in the interconnectedness of all of us, and that what we do on earth matters. Each of us matters.

Jennifer said...

Their greatest achievement was in managing to be so supportive about things I wanted to do that I never doubted I could do them. They were very matter of fact about everything. It made me feel like they trusted me and like I could trust myself.

The second question is harder because their greatest failure in raising me wasn't a bad thing for them: They got divorced when I was little. That's a loss that I think, no matter how well parents handle everything else, etches itself onto the kids.

Hoodie said...

I'd like to first state that the weight between #1 and #2, in my case, is nowhere near equal. I honor my parents greatly. Did they make mistakes? Sure. But never the same ones twice. They are truly wonderful. (Too bad I treated them so poorly as an adolescent.)

My parents great legacy, in my opinion, is that they parented by example. I never questioned their motives, their integrity, their genuine love and desire for my well-being. They are humble people who live simply, but I can say they are the most honest and selfless people I have ever known. I completely took for granted their pureness. I saw how they lived and tried to live the same way. It seemed only natural. I'm realizing now that they are better at it than I am.

The only thing I could fault my parents for would be not giving me enough opportunities to explore my potential. I think it was merely because they came from a simpler place and a simpler time, so getting me involved in things other than school never really crossed their minds. I feel like I could have been really good at a lot of things if I had been exposed to them young.

Catvibe said...

I'll have to think about that one. Meanwhile, tag, you're it. (explanation over at my site.)

Bevie said...

Hi Jason. Got here via Jennifer's blog.

Hope you don't mind my joining in the questions you posted.

#1. Without question, my sense of humor. They taught me to laugh at all misfortune. It doesn't make the pain go away, but it helps to reach tomorrow.

#2. Again, without question, they taught me to be afraid. And it's a lesson I learned better than humor.

Sorry. Won't be around Friday for part two.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

1. We were given every opportunity to succeed in life - My 4 sisters and I had lessons of all sorts, dance, musical, horseback riding, acting, painting, singing, etc. We were we given extraordinary educational opportunities, as well. In this way, they were trying to ensure a well rounded personality, giving us the best opportunity they knew how to succeed in life.

2. We knew we were loved, but perhaps they could have been more physically demonstrative. I feel that after a certain age, the hugging and kissing and all of that stopped. I think I was 10 or so. I felt that I wasn't loved as much as I had once been. Which was totally false..but, those were my impressions at age 10.

Anonymous said...

Aniket, Walking Man, Stephen, StrugglingWriter, Kaycie, Sarah, Church Lady, Jennifer, Hoodie, Bevie, and Kaye, thanks so much for your honest and heartfelt answers! I don't want to say too much in response, because we're only halfway into this exploration. Friday we'll see if we can expand the relevance.

I'll give you my own thoughts on these questions in a moment.

Aine, I agree! Folks are digging deep.

Catvibe, you're right, I've been resisting. :) I'll see what I can do.

Bevie, you are most welcome, and I'm honored to have you sharing your thoughts! Even if you're not around Friday, you can still participate.

Anonymous said...

My answers:

#1 My parents were very supportive of my passions and interests and inquisitiveness. They were generous in buying books, science things, computers, etc. so I could explore (and write). They were proud of my accomplishments.

#2 But support is not engagement or understanding. I was still very alone in those persuits. And as my energies grew in intensity and complexity, it drove me further from them. I became a curiosity to my mother and a quasi source of competition to my father. I got the sense that they wished I had turned out differently as a person. More the kind of person who would suit their emotional needs.

Margaret said...

These two questions are harder to answer than I thought, but after a lot of thought, I think...

#1. Their greatest achievement was letting me leave home (Ireland) and venture to Germany at the age of 19. I'm pretty sure, my Mom especially, would have liked me to stay home but they never tried to stop me.

#2. Their greatest failure (the only one I can think of) was not encouraging me to go to university. I left school when I was 16 and started my first office job. It was only later in life, that I realized, just how much I'd loved to have studied further.
I think it was the fact that we were 7 kids at home and in those days every wage coming into the house was welcome.

But all in all, I had the most wonderful childhood I could imagine. Growing up in a big family was what I loved the most, there was always laughter in the house, always someone to turn to. But most of all they taught me the values of life.

SzélsőFa said...

I find it difficult to tell the characteristics given through up-bringing from those gathered during adulthood.
I'm not a teenager, as you know and many of my 'features' are coming from experiences of recent years, you know.

Still, if I had to choose I'd say 'being a maximalist'. For both #1 and #2.

On a second thought...
#1 - being a practical person, that is not getting lost in thoughts when actions are needed, seeking the solution, instead of contemplating

#2 - having recurring doubts about my abilities

Anonymous said...

#1 Best = Teaching me to think for myself and not let what others say or think influence me - and to stand up for what is right. I have a strong sense of Justice.

#2 Worst = They were passive parents by the time kids 3/4 came along and were pretty much over the whole parenting thing. We last two were pretty much just dragged along in the older 2's wake.

Anonymous said...

The best achievement: they were compassionate enough to realize they were not good parents and sent me to live with a sister.

Greatest failure: picking alcohol over their youngest kid and sending me to live with a sister.

The craziness about all of that is that I had an incredibly joyful childhood and only realized how unorthodox my upbringing was when I'd had children myself.

Catvibe said...

1)My parents were divorced when I was 2, and they didn't really interfere with each others attempts to raise me. My father gave me culture, music, poetry, photography and these things were somewhat strangely imparted. My mother gave me psychology and freedom to explore with almost no boundaries whatsoever.

2)I was not gifted with a good sense of self esteem, and did most of #1 in an attempt to win love. Still working through that stupid self esteem issue. Hunting for harpies this very day.

Aine said...

Okay, here goes....

#1) This one is easy. My parents were experts at walking that fine line between smothering and respect. They (especially mom) created a solid sense of safety and security from which I could be free to thrive on my own terms. I never felt alone in the world. I was very secure. Also, she did an amazing job of understanding each of us kids (4 of us) as individuals. And seemed to instinctually practice individualized parenting.

#2) This one is tough, because I had probably the closest possible thing to an ideal childhood. Sure, there were things my parents could've done better, but no one is perfect. As strugglingwriter said, I place any failures on my shoulders not theirs. That said, to answer the question, I'd have to say that I wish there had been more academic discussion or exploration. They did the best they could, but mom didn't go to college and though dad studied finance at Wharton, he was not well-rounded. And neither of my sisters went to college. So I was on my own in navigating academia.

Nothingman said...

This is a very thoughtful question Jason. Well,

Greatest achievement of parents: encouraged me to read books, listen to music and watch movies.

Greatest Failure: Left me alone a lot when I was younger. Which is ok in hindsight, now I like being alone.



Karen said...

Greatest achievement: Even though they had little formal schooling, my parents reared us to value education.

Greatest failure: My parents both view the glass as half empty; they seek the dark clouds to hide a silver lining. I have had to fight against pessimism my whole life.