I had lunch with a friend last week and the nature of the meeting was both humbling and eye-opening. He was seeking advice for coping with his recently diagnosed grandson he’s raising as his own. While I was happy to give advice I wasn’t sure how I could help. In return though he helped me to understand a little bit about being a father.
This man has already raised his own children and is now raising his two grandchildren as his own. This is a common theme these days that I can relate to in a way. My own grandparents have raised their grandchildren, and are now raising their great-granddaughters.
They call me for advice often as well. There’s nothing more humbling than getting a phone call from the family matriarch, someone who has raised six children, and helped with numerous grandchildren, and she needs your advice.
It’s also very scary. Why me? What makes me the go-to guy? I usually look to my wife for advice, so why don’t they ask her?
As I’ve always said, I’m no expert. I’m just a father who looks for information to help my kids.
So the man’s grandson was recently diagnosed with autism and he was asking me for a father’s perspective. I gave the best I knew, but the conversation moved into something that I have always had trouble with; discipline. I didn’t really have the answers to his questions at that point in the conversation. So I had to ask myself what I do in those situations.
I had to admit to him that I didn’t always do the best thing. In fact I often do things to make the situation worse. I have a tendency to yell which makes Konner’s frustration worse and then it goes down hill from there. In the past, and embarrassingly even now at times, I have tried to spank him. This was working on impulse from things I learned from my father. I’m not saying that was wrong, but it doesn’t work for Konner.
So I had to dig deeper.
This is when he talked about things he could have done better with his own children. He was trying to do things differently with his grandchildren, and was using his past experiences to make that better the second time around.
That’s when I asked him, "Did you do your best? Did you do everything the way you thought you should at the time?"
I think this is the only answer in parenting. They don’t come with a manual. The only time we truly fail as parents is when we don’t do our best. I know this seems cliche, but we have to use what we know to help guide and protect our children. If we have a set-back then we will need to regroup, try again, and learn from our mistakes.