‘Children eventually must be set free. It is critical to realize that the type of parents we are to them has a direct impact on the kind of adults they will become.’
‘Children eventually must be set free. It is critical to realize that the type of parents we are to them has a direct impact on the kind of adults they will become.’

Last month I was travelling in NYC, and my mother sent me an email that contained words of support that I can’t recall hearing before. Dare I say it, those insightful words may have been the best thing she’s said to me in my adult life.  

My girlfriend strongly advised that I should tell her how I feel, to which I replied, “Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and I’ll write a column about it.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to get my thoughts on paper, so this is something of a belated Mother’s Day and pre-Father’s Day column.

On the next day of the trip, again at the recommendation of my girlfriend, we headed up into Harlem to see an art exhibit at the Schomberg Center for Black Culture called ‘Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution’.  This exhibit addressed progressive black animation over the last 40 years.

There’s nothing quite like looking at the intro to Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids to remind you of your childhood. Of greater relevance was that this exhibit reminded me a great deal of how I believe that my mother was very deliberate about putting positive things in front of her children.  Whether it was Fat Albert, National Geographic or Encyclopedia Britannica, I can look back and see the value of her guiding hand.

Likewise, my father drilled us on respect, discipline, academics and progress. Many times during the week we were ordered, “Get a book in your hands!” If you came home with 75%, you were pushed for 80%. Building upon who you were or what you had was his first religion. As a parent, I think my father was the polar opposite of my mother, but the two of them made a synergistic combination — sometimes even accidentally.   For example, lessons learned from my parents’ divorce were absolutely instrumental in navigating through my own.

It’s rather peculiar that potential grandparents (PGs) don’t tell us about the blood, sweat and tears they must have shed when bringing us up. If they did, I’d bet it would have a negative affect on the national birth rate. PGs don’t warn us about not being able to sleep in on a weekend or holiday any more. PGs don’t warn us about having to review arithmetic and grammar after a gruelling, 10-hour work day. PGs don’t warn us about how children frequently seek to press buttons and test boundaries. PGs also say nothing about the burning smell constantly emanating from your wallet.

On the other hand, PGs say nothing about how fart jokes never get old. PGs don’t tell you how awesome it is to take your kids mountain biking along the railway trail. Snorkelling at Church or Tobacco Bay is an experience with your kids you won’t soon forget. The same goes for taking flashlights down into the caves at Tom Moore’s Jungle.  And who would have thought that showing your kids the joy of jumping off a ferry dock would have been so much fun?

We’ve heard the phrase before: “You never stop being a parent, even when your children become adults.” But I do think that there is a transition when a parent needs to recognize age and maturity, because at some point “yours” are no longer your “children” but instead grow into full grown “sons and daughters”.  In other words, the context of parenting changes as your children become adults.

Children eventually must be set free. It is therefore critical to realize that the type of parents we are to them has a direct impact on the kind of adults they will become. They’ll decide on their own which lessons and experiences they want to keep or throw away.  The big point is that there are several things they’ll learn from us that will end up being taught to their own children in the future.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words.Well, I think this photo very much defines me as a parent. My sons are literally clinging to my shoulders, and are pressed against my heart.  But, metaphorically they are clinging to my father’s shoulders, while being pressed against my mother’s heart. I’m blazing my own trail as a parent, but I’m indebted to my parents for the good things I’ve happened to learn from their example.

Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day, Carolyn Swan and Robert Trew, Jr.