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Mental Health and Parenting

It’s been pointed out to me several times that I am not a father to my children but a friend. I don’t completely agree with that but I can see where it comes from. My father told me that he thought of himself as more my friend than my parent so that pattern may well have been set. Don’t get me wrong. My dad held a job and paid bills, as do, and he spent time with me. But he didn’t parent as I think the term is properly used. He didn’t tell me how to live.

What makes a good parent? And what are the mental health issues involved with being so? Often I think we fear to give our problems to our kids. I spoke with my brother about that once and he generally said you really can’t avoid doing that. Those issues you have, whether you want them to or not, will manifest in your kids. They just will. So the point is not to worry about it. Just go about your business as best you can.

Actually just having kids is a mental health issue, not to mention a marriage health issue. My wife and I are always tense over our kids and they’re both quite high achievers. Both are honors graduates and in or going to top colleges. But in our minds, their accomplishments exist in direct relation to our own mental anguish in them getting there. The sacrifices we’ve made impact how we feel about how they’re doing, i.e., if the kids don’t go to $$!@!@@$$ Med School why did I go into so much debt?

Well, the answer here is that I made choices which are part selfish and part not. And my mental health issues with my kids and my family in general have most to do with the issues we all have, the ones I brought to the table and those my wife did, and the ones our kids now share. I see the issues manifest and I wince and I feel guilty and angry and scared. And I see how my wife and I evolve a group think mentality about the kids which is basically dumber than each of us individually but which we gravitate to as a means of connecting over them. I’m not sure we really ever have connected over them in the way I would like but we do try and they’ve done decently well as I’ve said. Though maybe the point is the stuff they have more than the stuff we give. Dunno.

But what matters is what comes next and I find myself simply looking at the future hoping they (the kids) have learned from what they’ve been through. In one sense it’s up to them now. In another I’m more scared than ever because now and soon into the future they can really screw up their lives. I can’t ever not care about that. I’m responsible for them. I’m not ultimately but I am intimately. I love them more than I’ve loved anything in my life, and I’ve needed them more.

I don’t know if that’s being a good parent, but it is being me.


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