This is an article I wrote two months ago, although my opinions haven't really changed.
My son turned five months old as of today. He is a happy, healthy, and alert infant. We are truly blessed and are amazed at how much he has grown, especially considering that he was born six weeks early. People say that raising a child is the hardest yet most rewarding thing you will ever do, and I completely understand that statement. The baby books can only prepare you for so much. 99% of the time is great. Watching TV with him, feeding him while he strokes my beard and stares up at me. I can only hope that I always do right by him, and set a good example for him.
Then there is that one percent with purple crying, reverse sleep cycles, late night feedings and diaper changes. While I know this sounds horrible to say, I completely understand how shaken baby syndrome can happen in some cases. By saying this, I am not condoning harming or violence against your child. Please understand that. But there are times when you as a parent do not know how to soothe your child and it gets frantic, and so do you. I have found myself rocking him harder or patting his back frantically to see if I can get a burp out of him. It’s not easy, but I have to remind myself to slow down and chill out.
I’m not here to jump on a soapbox and tell you about being pro-life or the sanctity of life, to each his own. I don’t have to carry the child or risk the complications of pregnancy (except for the occasional mood swing, which is inevitable), so why should I have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body? Anyways, back to parenting.
It’s probably the favorite thing I do. It’s the one time I’m not thinking about work, bills, and other issues. I love to hear him laugh and react to educational shows. He already loves to be read to, and has quite the eclectic taste in music, much like me and my wife. He listens to Johnny Cash as well as Imagine Dragons. We hope to raise him to be eclectic and open-minded about everything. We take him out, let him see different kinds of people. We take him to local pride rallies in hopes that he realizes that there is good in everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, and that this doesn’t determine whether or not someone is a bad a person. We want him to grow up to be polite and respectful of everyone, from please and thank you to not judging people based on appearance or other matters.
Children are not born knowing how to hate. This is taught and passed down through generations. I refuse to teach my child hatred against any group of people regardless of the situation at hand. The fact is that there are and always be bullies out there. There are white supremacists and hate mongers. They were taught this, it was not inherent. The only thing my child hates is naps and bedtime. No child or adult for that matter should have to go through life fearing that they will be targeted or isolated. Now this isn’t to say that every parent turns their kids into white supremacists. Sometimes it’s in their culture and these types of groups tend to try to recruit people who are looking for a place to belong, much like gangs often do.
The best thing a parent can do is be proactive in their kids’ lives and try to be involved and listen to them. Sometimes there are signs there that they may be going through grief and strife and sometimes they try to hide it. These types of communication breakdowns happen often, especially as the child becomes older, particularly in the teenage years. You couldn’t pay me enough to be a teenager in today’s society. It’s hard enough to be an adult in society today. We often look for the easiest things to blame, whether it be television, video games, or music. In my opinion, it boils down to fact that they felt unheard or ignored, or as if they didn’t have a place to belong.
Take for example the Columbine shooters. Sure they listened to Marilyn Manson and played violent video games, but so did I as a teenager (and still do from time to time). I have never went out of my way to harm anyone. Sure I’ve been in a few scuffles, but nothing on the disastrous and tragic scale that they did. While no parent is perfect, I can’t help but wonder how their parents didn’t know that they were building pipe bombs in the basement. How were they able to get the guns that they had with no signs that they were missing? When I was young, I was taught to always respect firearms and the damage that they could do. There is the Slenderman case where two teens lured a friend out into the woods to stab her to death and leave her there as a sacrifice to Slenderman. Obviously at least one of the girls was mentally ill with schizophrenia, and from my knowledge was never treated or diagnosed until after the stabbing, even though she displayed quite a few symptoms related to this mental illness. These two obviously lived in a fantasy world, where they couldn’t differentiate fact from fiction. There are many more cases I could talk about, but the fact is that no one was paying attention to the signs they displayed, whether they spoken or just ignored. Many children still go through this today, without their parents' knowledge. These are our children, our future. Is this the best we can do for them?
Get them involved in something they enjoy, whether you as a parent like it or not. (I’m talking about school clubs and sports and after school activities, of course. I’m not condoning illegal or harmful activities. This is what I’m trying to prevent.) Try to take interest in it and learn with them. Even if it’s something that doesn’t interest you, it’s important to them. Your approval can be as important as your interest. Don’t be one of those parents who are out on the soccer field screaming at them because they made a mistake. That will only serve to teach them to be extremely hard on themselves and take the fun out of it for them. (Take it from someone who knows.) Just be supportive. You don’t have to think that everyone deserves a trophy, but acknowledge their efforts and praise them for it.
I’ve always believed that as a parent, you should learn from your parent’s mistakes. Utilize what they did right, rethink and reshape what they did wrong. Of course all parents make mistakes. I’m not trying to blame anyone, and sometimes children are going to do what they want. It always amuses me to hear someone say that “their child would never do that.” Odds are, they probably already have. As children grow, sometimes they think no means do it when my back is turned. All I’m saying is learn from the mistakes of others. Do the best you can by your children, and hope they learn from your mistakes, and become successful in life. I really hope that my son doesn’t make some of the mistakes I did, although I know there will a few that will probably be repeated in the future. As far as I’m concerned, as long as he’s always safe and happy, I will believe that I done the best I could by him, to raise him to be a gentleman and a gentle soul. It’s been said that you can judge the character of a person by how they treat animals. I hope to teach him that the caterpillar is just as important as the lion. If I can teach him that, to be a free thinker, and to respect all humanity, then I would consider that a job well done.