Before I was a parent I’d hear people say that their greatest achievement was raising a child. This always struck me as pathetic, that you would define yourself through someone else. Vicarious achievement has never been my goal as a parent, and it wasn’t until Toddler Harbat was born that I began to understand that pride and vicarious achievement are quite different.
When you first see that wriggling pink lump in the delivery you think, “Totally…helpless.” You might also be wondering what you got yourself into. Your baby needs everything and that first year is so intense you get used to the idea that you are the Source, the Protector, and the Provider. Then your kid says something you never said, or does something learned outside the home and you realize, “Holy moley, this is a real person.” At some point your family changes from “parents with screaming hand luggage” to “party of three, your table is ready”. As your child grows and you watch them take flight on their own, you can add Supporter to your list of roles. When little Timmy ties his own shoes or Jane manages to pour herself a glass of milk without spilling, you feel an irresistible urge to yell out to the world, “Look! Look what she’s doing all by herself!” This usually makes others check their watch and nod politely, but because you’ve seen the pink lump turn into a person through the alchemy of growth you know how truly amazing it is. Please please don’t bring out the five-hundred photo flip out booklet from your wallet when people ask how your kid’s doing. They won’t care if he just yesterday managed to wipe his own butt AND pull his underwear up.
Which brings us to achievement. Now I understand that raising a kid won’t be my greatest achievement because I really can’t take credit for it. My wife and I both try to be good parents, but our daughter deserves more than half the credit. She gets a daily barrage of things to learn, manners lessons, life lessons, and instructions on everything from hygiene to social norms, and still can be loving, funny, forgiving, and patient (at times). Maybe together we can claim this achievement. Every day I try to teach, support, and love my daughter so she’ll be able to blossom, be happy with herself, and stay true to who she is. Already before her third birthday she’s got a strong personality and sense of herself. As long as we three can work together to let her become the best person she can be we’ll have accomplished something great.