John Shuff and his son David, circa 1973
Parenting is all about understanding the differences between you and your children, appreciating their ambitions and giving them high-fives of encouragement for their accomplishments, no matter the magnitude. Being a good parent is a tough job. When I look back, I can see all the things I would have done differently. I would have been a better listener; I would have tried not to swear so much; I would have worked harder to camouflage my anger. Oh, I could go on, but I know I did the best I could at the time. There is no tried-and-true formula for raising kids, although I do believe the greatest gift a parent can give society is a young adult with a wonderful sense of self and an undaunted spirit for the life ahead of him or her.
I watched my son, David, as a young man, pursue a lifelong dream: working in Japan and being a part of that country’s culture. As a 22-year-old, I never would have considered this, but he did—and spent five years there. We are as different as night and day. I didn’t like comic books as a kid; he devoured them. As a youngster he read everything he put his hands on. I never read anything but the sports pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The first ball I threw him is still in the spot where it landed.
As an adolescent he was infatuated with karate; I collected baseball cards. He won writing awards in high school; I shot baskets. And when David took Asian studies in college that included courses in learning the Japanese language, I cringed, because for me a major in business was the only thing that made sense.
We are polar opposites on almost everything. Even given all these differences—this total incompatibility—I have always respected his interests. After all, David had a vision, a dream—and by dogged persistence, it became a reality.
Margaret Mary and I have always understood that our children were not possessions. David and our daughter, Molly, were only “leased” to us. We were merely the conduits that helped them spring forward into this uncertain world. Most parents who nurture, lead, listen and maintain a supportive relationship with their kids will send them into this life well adjusted and ready to cope. As Gibran says, “Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as he loves the arrow, so he loves the bow that is stable.”
Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day.