Better

Ken Kayse

How hard we parents try to make our children’s world better than ours.

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Disclaimer: This article discusses my views, observations, and opinions about parenthood. Caution should be used in mimicking the style of parenting discussed here. What works for me and my wife may not work for you.

When I was a brand-new father, filled with tremendous love in my heart for this little being squeezing my finger so tightly, I remember promising myself that this days-old baby would live a better life than me.

It wasn’t because I had it rough when I was growing up, not at all. I was born into a very loving family and was well provided for during my formative years. While we weren’t rich in a monetary sense by any means, my parents taught me about the values of faith, hope, love, and charity that would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Passing these cherished beliefs on to my daughter, and a few years later to my son, would be my calling in this life. As a parent, I felt a strong duty to teach these values to my children, just as my parents had done for me and their parents had done for them.

This, I was certain, would give them a strong foundation from which they could develop their own beliefs, their own morals, and principles, and their own strengths and weaknesses.

Families have different values and different ways of teaching these values to their children. There may be disagreements between parents at times as to how to convey these values to the kids, but the values don’t change.

For instance, my own personal belief about how much freedom to allow a child to explore when they find themselves in different surroundings from what they know at “home” might be to allow them a great deal of leeway to let them discover things on their own.

On the other hand, you, the reader, might be fearful that something bad could happen to them in this new environment and you may tend to rein them in some, within your reach at all times, as a measure of control to allow you time to react if something bad happens to them.

There is nothing “right” or “wrong” with either of these methods. They are personal preferences that each of us develops based on how we were raised and what our life experiences have been.

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I was raised in the 50s and 60s, well before any personal safety issues had surfaced. As such, my siblings and I were given great freedom in how far we could roam from our house. The rules were to stay within earshot and come home when the streetlights come on. You earned more leeway by following these rules.

My Dad and one of his brothers had a special bond with each other. They would get together and reminisce about the “Good Old Days” while I and my three cousins would be getting into all kinds of mischief.

That kind of fun ended abruptly in the early 60s when my uncle’s job was transferred to South Carolina. That meant they had to move, which made me sad because I had gotten close with my oldest cousin. Our budding friendship had to be put on hold for several years.

Twenty-five years flew by before we could renew our closeness. We had loads of fun catching up with each other. There were so many parallels in our experiences — I joined the Army; he joined the Army two years later; We were both honorably discharged. We had been quite the hell-raisers while we were in the Army.

It was when I went to South Carolina for his daughter’s wedding that he mused, “You know, if we had lived closer to each other in our teens, we’d both just be getting out of jail about now.” Who knows what kind of trouble we would have gotten into together?

Thankfully, neither of us has ever been in jail. And we made sure not to pass on any bad habits to our children, too. We gave them the latitude to discover their own personalities, but not so much that they abused the privilege, or had to be restricted from being themselves.

Both my daughter and son are in their 40s now and have their own children. I can see them teaching the same values, morals, and principles to their kids now, but in ways that are different from how we taught them.

I think that’s great! Just as I listened to my parents and absorbed their advice like a sponge, I look back and can see how I taught my children the same values, but in a different way. I tell myself I did this as a way to improve my child’s life, to make it better than mine. Evidently, it worked!

Thanks for reading this!

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Being a "Lefty," my writing tends to lean a little to the left, but I consider myself an Independent--I'm willing to listen to all sides. Writing gives me a chance to gather my thoughts. All my life I have been a glass-half-full believer.

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