The Roles of Parenting

I am now at an age where I can kind of understand but thoroughly appreciate the roles that parents play in raising children. I’m sure it takes a parent to really know what it is that I’m about to discuss, but what I’m writing from are my experiences growing up with a mother and a father and observing them. This also forces me into an even deeper respect and admiration for the single parent. The single parent has to play the roles of the mother and father, which I’m sure takes more emotional balance and energy that goes a lot further than the obvious surface sacrifices.

There is no way possible I could ever really tell what it takes to be a mother. However, I do have a mother who has been the best mother that she could be since I can ever remember. I can compare her to other moms I know, and summarize their primary roles in the title of Guardian of Hope. When you think about what a mother does for a child, I would not be afraid to say that most of those things revolve around ensuring that the child will be okay. She is a nurturer. She is a caregiver. She tells her child that everything will be alright, even if a situation has convinced her otherwise. Everything a mother does is to encourage and instill hope in her child, preserving the innocence of youthful ignorance. She will not let the child believe or even think that a goal is unattainable, but will instead encourage her child’s will to reach for what may seem impossible to everyone else. The Guardian of Hope will do whatever she must in order to make sure that child has peace of mind and believes that everything will be okay.

I plan on being a father one day and find no better example to pattern myself after than my own dad. The summary title that I have settled with for a general father figure is the Enforcer of Truth. This is no fun job, but it has to be done. A father is the first, real authority figure that you have growing up. When you are a child, the “no” from your father is more concrete than whatever the police might say, your teacher or even the president. Some kind of way the dominance of male figure naturally demands a level of respect that a mother does not have. Don’t get me wrong; they are both respected, but a mother is more revered, whereas a father is more feared. This is not a bad fear because everything a father does and the decisions he make will be from the same love for his child that the mother has.

Your Guardian of Hope tells you everything will be alright. Your Enforcer of Truth tells you everything will be alright IF you do everything you’re supposed to do and nothing goes wrong. The Guardian of Hope normally hates to disappoint her little ones, but the Enforcer of Truth has to most times. I’ll give you a simple scenario:

Child: Mom can I go to Johnny Badboy’s party?
Mom: Ask your father.
Child: Dad, can I go to Johnny Badboy’s party?
Dad: No, you can’t. Those Badboys are no good.
Child: (leaves disappointed)
Mom: Maybe next time. (pats him on the head)

Now, I understand this is a very general example, but it gets the point across. That’s just how it normally goes. If the answer is no, and the mom is in a position to pass it off to the dad, she will. However, if the answer is yes, she will proudly answer and take the credit for being the nice and caring parent. This is usually how the dad gets such a bad reputation among the kids. The child does not understand that the parents mutually agree on the same answer; it’s just left to which one is going to be the bad guy this time… Dad, the enforcer of truth.

If a child comes home from school after dealing with a bully, the Guardian of Hope will say, “Never let anyone tell who you are or what you’re not. Stand tall and be proud,” and all of that good stuff. The Enforcer of truth will tell him the same thing but add, “And if you have to, ball up your fist and give him everything you’ve got square in the nose; because people will run over you if you don’t stand up for yourself.” Both messages are very true, and a child needs to hear both to develop balanced behavior and decision making in life. The good cop bad cop routine is something that parents get better at with practice. After a while, it gets hard to tell who’s the originator of the results the child gets; but that’s not for the child to know anyway. As far as the child is concerned, you have two parents, but they are one unit. Over time though, the roles just become a bit more blurred as the parents learn to share the responsibilities among themselves.

Realizing all of this though, also helps me to see that single parents must have a special type of strength to do what they do. It goes so much further than providing, which is what we normally look at when we see single parents. They have to literally be two people. They have to make decisions that may go against their instincts and make the hard decisions that the half they lack should be making. They have to be the good cop and the bad cop in order to give the child the balance that they need.

I’m sure there is so much that goes into all of this that I wouldn’t even begin to figure it out without actual experience. I have a Guardian of Hope and an Enforcer of Truth, who tag-teamed me through a merry childhood and an easy young adult life. Then I have peers who have excelled past me although their single parent father or mother had to work twice as hard to get them to where they are. I guess the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many parents you have; you should be forever grateful for all they do for you and recognize their love and learn to look for it. It may not always seem like they love like you would like them to, but they do indeed; you just don’t always see it.

From my Perspective

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