My teenage daughter smiled as she gently closed the door to her room in the middle of our conversation. This was not so we could have more privacy and deepen our father-daughter dialogue. I was on the other side of the door. This act was not done with malice or anger; she was simply finished with me.
For some unknown reason, at some point of weakness in my life, I actually chose to have kids. This isn’t saying I regret having them. I don’t. I love my kids more than I love myself, which frankly isn’t that difficult, especially on any day I pass a full-length mirror. I just don’t know what led to that decision.
Having kids feels great most of the time. There is a lot of satisfaction and pride in watching them grow up and not be a pervert or serial killer. But is that the reason to have them, for our own satisfaction? People don’t have kids for the love they feel for them, or at least they shouldn’t. That would be pretty selfish. Let’s see, I’m going to create a life to give me something to love and to provide me with pride and self esteem if I don’t fuck it up. Seriously? Get a dog, don’t have a kid.
Whatever the cause, I decided to have children and lately I’ve been struggling with how to accept this imperfect relationship. I was naive to think everything would be wonderful all the time. I’d love them, they’d love me, and we’d take care of one another because we were responsible for one another. It never occurred to me until recently that kids are absent of any responsibility in the child-parent relationship. They can decide how much to give or they can just stop the relationship, but parents can’t. We have to keep the little shitheads alive or we go to jail.
We as parents lie to our kids and tell them they must love, respect and care for us, and we believe it, too. But we tell them these things for our own survival. We are going to need somebody to change our diapers and keep us from wandering into traffic when we get old and crazy. But the fact is they don’t have to give us the time of day. If they abandon us, or simply don’t like us, that’s on the parents because responsibility to a relationship comes with the choice to enter that relationship.
Parents don’t consult kids before bringing them into the world. Our parents didn’t ask us, “Hey, I’m about to commit you to exist for the next 70 or 80 years in a world you didn’t create and you’ll live under rules you have little chance of changing. You will have to work your ass off just to survive and work even harder to create a life worth living. And despite all your work, every now and then a tornado or flood, or maybe even an asteroid will fall out of the sky unannounced and will destroy everything you own. And if you actually survive the disasters, there will be people who will hate you or want to kill you because of the color of your skin, the God you worship, the decisions of your leaders, who you sleep with, or just because you’re in the way on the wrong day. Oh, and by the way, every relationship you have will devastate you at some point. So, can I sign you up?” We’d tell them to go fuck themselves.
No, we don’t ask our kids. We just throw them a party one day and yell, “Surprise, you now have to deal with all the shit that is life whether you like it or not.” And then we have the audacity to be pissed if they don’t show gratitude. How arrogant and self-absorbed is the parent who, when his kid doesn’t bow down and kiss his ass, yells, “Look at all I do for you and this is the thanks I get.”
I’m discovering anything positive I get from my kids is a gift. Our kids owe us exactly nothing, and we should expect nothing. When kids choose to be born, then we can make demands on their attitude toward us. Until then, if they close the door in your face, just be thankful they did it with a smile.