I’m far from considering myself a great parent (of my four kids!). I’m undisciplined. I’m often lazy. Homeschooling my kids for example has been a disaster. It wasn’t some strategic decision — to homeschool them, but it worked out that way in the last couple of years. First, the pandemic kept them away from school. Then there were other disruptions. We moved across the country in the middle of the year for example. Also, my daughter plays a lot of tennis, and homeschooling gives a lot of flexibility for training and travel. I’m providing the context but the point is the same — I’ve been struggling to support my kids in their studies.
Arguably (according to my wife!), I have other weaknesses in how I parent. I’m way too soft. I am, truly. I avoid exercising authority over my kids because I myself, as an adult, reject authority. Reject with passion and conviction I should say. Maybe I owe this mindset to my parents. They were in opposition to the Soviet regime when its collapse was impossible to imagine, notwithstanding Gorbachev’s perestroika. But I don’t want though to analyze the beginnings and the development of my character. The point is that I want my kids to grow up always aware of their freedom, and mistrustful of anyone who tries to exercise power over them.
But I know that there are some qualities that make me a good parent, that make up for my weaknesses.
Here’s the main one. It’s super simple. I listen to my kids, no matter their age, no matter the circumstances.
I don’t mean “listen” as in I put away my phone and listen to them with uncompromised focus when they’re asking me something. Unfortunately, I don’t always do that.
However, whenever there is tension, when there is a heated argument or a moment of chaos, I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to listening to what they are trying to communicate. I’m not saying I’m all calm and wise. I get emotional, I raise my voice, and I get frustrated. But I also try to listen to them. Imagine you have bad vision and you’re squinting trying to see something. My vision was really bad before I had my Lasik surgery. So when I say I listen to them, I “squint”, I genuinely try. I extract the message they’re trying to get across, no matter how messy and awkward it is. Even if I risk arguing and disagreeing with my wife — and that risk is ever present — I listen to my kids.