- Be present.
- Be consistent in your presence.
Parenting . . .
So, to break that down . . . it is about time spent and being consistent in that time. Seems simple enough, right? Just be there and be the same person you are at all times.
So if you are a parent that reads for an hour a night . . . do that every night. If you are a mother that prepares individual meals to the exact preferences of each of your children . . . keep cooking. If you are a father that is teaching your children how to play an organized sport . . . coach them each season. You can apply this to nightly homework, life lessons, developing vocabulary, teaching numbers, letters, animals, and body parts, and even how kids should behave and interact and develop a sense of self as a tween/teenager. SIMPLE.
Yet is an alcoholic that smokes two packs a day and is verbally abusive to spouse and child not equally present (in their own disgusting way)? Is the parent that will listen to a child asking for help but ignore them because it is not their strong suit to help with whatever problem not consistent? Does a mother that breast feeds until the age of 12 not just being completely repetitive in their parenting? The father that works until 9 PM each night (by choice) and is gone again by 7 AM each morning (by choice) not showing that he is a man of ritual and habit?
Yes. Technically under the above two rules every one of the parents I just described (some of them may even overlap (quizzical grimace) would be a success. But note that the definition of "success," in and of itself, has a million different interpretations - the most accepted of which is that someone accomplished something.
Let's presume (in some melodramatic, stereo-typical way) that the parents in the first 'graph will raise kids who go on to be doctors and lawyers and the parents in the second 'graph will grow up to be at best socially awkward, at worst resentful and broken people. But those parents will have ACCOMPLISHED what the mandate is - keeping your kid alive long enough to leave the home and take their place in society (whatever place that is).
Here's the only way I want my parenting to go if I see myself as successful . . . my child will grow up to believe in herself, her intelligence, her instincts, her abilities, and her delights. She'll have a good heart and a giving way. She'll have friends that enrich her, a partner that completes her, and a family that delights in all that she's become. And I think all those things would be success if she were a janitor or President of the United States of America, a career woman or a career mother, a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic, or Mormon. If she were "drop dead" beautiful or barely lookable, if she were thin, fat, tall, short, blonde, brunette, child-birthing hipped or "small up top."
That is how I am parenting. I'm consistent in what I say to her, and how I say it (yes, even in my overuse of the "f-word"). I am careful about what I say in front of her and whom/what/when/where/why I talk about. I act in a way that I'd like her to emulate. I carry myself as someone who is sure of himself and has very little doubt, fear, worry, or shortcoming. And I do that every minute I can. It is different now that we're eight months in to separate homes for her - I might argue it is "better" for me to be consistent because I have 50% of evenings and weekends, on top of the regular work/school hours, that I can be sad, mad, grumpy, petulant, bitter, small, and crass. And 50% of evenings and weekends when I can be a "Prince Familiar" and a consistent father - even with the faults that implies and leaves in play.