The 10 commandments of fatherhood when your kids have grown up

“You were an ineffectual father,” was the recent, unflattering assessment I received about my track record as a parent (not from any of my kids, I should point out –  they are generally much more forgiving).

I was a big end of town, single breadwinner father, perhaps loving the thrill of the corporate chase a little too much.  I earned a decent income, but I probably wasn’t around as much as I could or should have been.

I can’t fix those shortcomings now, or do the things I could or should have done then.  The only atonement I figure I can do is to make the best job of fatherhood now.

It’s different, of course, when your kids are grown.  If you ever could tell them to do something when they were young (a highly debatable proposition), you certainly can’t when they are adults.  My take on the 10 best things you can do as a parent of adult children, apart from babysitting grandchildren, is this:

  1. Cherish your children for what and who they are, not for what you want them to be.  Who cares if none of them wanted to be a lawyer?  There is little benefit in criticising the choices they make, or judging them by outcomes you would rather have seen.  You can’t re-live your life vicariously through them.
  2. Be prepared to accept feedback or criticism they might direct your way, because there is likely at least a speck of truth in it.  It probably is a while since you visited them.
  3. Understand that you can still do stuff that they interpret as ‘letting them down’.
  4. Write yourself a list of the 5 things you love and value most about your children, to remind yourself.  You don’t have to stop at 5 if you get on a roll.  But seriously, try it.
  5. Embrace their choice of life partner.  If someone loves your child, you gotta love them.
  6. Don’t push your way into their affairs; just be there if they want you to be involved.  That is, save your wisdom until it is asked for, or falls naturally into the conversation.
  7. Let them be the parents they need to be for their own children.  Things are different now to the world in which you were the parents of young children.
  8. Accept that some of the lessons they might want to learn from you could start with “I don’t want to be like that part of him,” or “I don’t want to do what he did”.
  9. Understand that you can learn plenty from their interfaces with the world that is a generation away from yours, even if it’s getting Twitter sorted or using your smart TV.
  10. Recognise that they are doing good and useful things in life.

And remember, all this has probably been coming since the first time you couldn’t beat them in an arm wrestle any more.

david white

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  1. Really enjoyed this. I know your daughter well enough to confirm that you were a great father.

    • Dee
    • October 20th, 2012

    Funnily enough, I dont need to remind myself of 5 things you like about them, I love them, no matter what.

    • Ellen
    • October 19th, 2012

    Love it 😉

  1. October 25th, 2012

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