The Guilt of a Growing Parent


I admit it, I feel guilty a lot. I'm a personal growth junkie who, from time to time, has chosen book club over one of my son's baseball games. I indulge in writing retreats, I have two - yes two - spiritual coaches, and I work my behind off as an entrepreneur because I've become "unofficable" and have a hard time being told what to do. I'm stubborn, I crave independence, and I confess that my self-development pursuits have cost us countless family dinners. Actually, I can probably count our family dinners from this year on one hand.

At the end last year, I traveled quite a bit for a new consulting project. And, as I anticipated, the guilt rolled in again. Why can't I just be like one of the many, many other parents who are content in their 9-5's and make dinner, or at least make it home for dinner, most every night of the week?

But then, on the way to a site-visit for my new project, I received a text from the mom of one of my youngest son's classmates. It read: 

"I just thought you'd like to know what a true gentleman you have. Rachel is on crutches since she sprained her ankle. Rollins was the ONLY person all day that offered to help her carry her things! That was so sweet!!!"

I beamed with happiness, and I must admit pride, as I read the words aloud to my co-workers in the car with me. As much as I wanted to take "credit" for having raised a kid who had no problem seeing when others needed help - and actually helping them, I knew that it had nothing to do with me.

And then, just days later, as I was packing up to travel home again, my phone rang. It was the woman who I carpool with to get both our oldest sons to their magnet school in the morning. Fearing another mix-up of some kind about the schedule I let the call roll to voicemail. I mean, what could I do about it from Pittsburgh?

A few minutes later, I listened to her message. She started with "Don't worry; everything is okay, and I just dropped the boys off at school." Whew - carpool disaster avoided for today. Then, I listened to the rest of her message:

"I love your son Sully. He is so sweet and takes me in stride. He's always so, so respectful."

That prideful feeling tempted me again, but, again, I had to let it go. How dare I take credit for this? God and I both know he simply is who he is.

And that's when I saw it - the pattern: these little messages come in when I'm off doing what I can to fulfill my interpretation of my life's purpose. I am graced with these not-so-subtle reminders that they are okay. No, they are more than okay - they are awesome! Two kind, confident, and respectful kids being thoughtful without my prompting them and sharing their light with the world in ways they likely don't see or understand.

While I still won't dare to take credit, something occurred to me: Maybe my efforts to be the best, most fulfilled version of myself has somehow given them permission to do the same? What if, the best thing we can do for our kids, is to try to be the best versions of ourselves - as people first, then parents?