June 1, 2017/by Shari Bornstein
This is the season for graduations. It’s a bit early for high schools, but college grads abound. If you are the parent of a grad, this event is a proud moment for you as well. Aside from breathing a sigh of relief with the last tuition payment, you’ve earned the opportunity to watch your child accept his or her diploma on a Jumbo-tron size television screen. No small feat after four years of intense academic rigor.
I, too, recently basked in the glow of watching my child graduate. And then it hit me. This, too, is parenting. Yes, watching your child walk across the stage is absolutely an aspect of parenting. Sure, it’s different from many parents’ perceptions of parenting. Especially parents engaged in conflict, whether from a pending divorce, separation, or the left over remains of their long ago broken down relationship. Some of these folks fight over every piece of “parenting” in the name of acting in their child’s best interest. Parents engage in conflict over exchange times, the number of overnights, medical treatment, extra-curricular activities, child-related expenses and on and on. Unfortunately, these parents lose sight of the bigger picture of what encompasses “parenting”.
Observing and supporting your child’s experiences is still parenting. Sure, you didn’t kick the soccer ball, play the musical instrument or do your child’s homework (hopefully). But you certainly may have sat in the audience and clapped and whooped at your child’s achievements, enrolled them in Little League and provided a quiet, clean environment for them to do their school work.
Parenting is large and encompassing. It’s not limited to one definition or role. The ingredients of parenting evolve over time as they should with a child’s maturity. Children grow up and many reach a graduation milestone. At that moment, there is nothing parents do actively, but beam. One parent I met labelled her inability to be with her child every day as a tragedy. She’s right in a way. It is difficult when hopes and dreams must be re-aligned to fit reality.
Parenting is much more than the number of hours a parent spends with a child, or which clothing didn’t come back after the other parent’s time or the child’s transition time on Independence Day. It is doubtful most children remember whether thirty minutes made a difference in their relationship with a parent. But they will remember how their parents made them feel.
If you’re the parent of a grad this time of year, your goal should be to be there for you child. Perhaps you can have a joint meal with your co-parent and your child in celebration your child’s accomplishment or if that does not feel right, you and your co-parent can celebrate with your child separately and agree not to involve him/her in your parental conflicts. Let your child relish in their achievements. Because that’s parenting, too.
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Shari Bornstein is an attorney and mediator.