How does one become a parent?
That may seem like a silly question, and your automatic first response may be, “Well, you have sex, duh, and then once you get pregnant and your baby is born, you’re a parent.”
Seems legit, but I disagree. Let me explain.
First, let’s review the general characteristics of parents:
1. They’re tired.
Parents work their butts off to raise their children to become respectful, responsible, hardworking adults. They often work full-time in order to provide for their kids. When they’re not at work, they can often be found cleaning up after, cooking for, or caring for their children. Beyond even that, however, they are also responsible for toting their kids around from sporting event to band practice to tutoring to student council meeting. The bottom line is: They never stop or get a break!
2. They’re broke.
Kids are expensive! The always need something: food [geez!], clothes that fit because they won’t stop growing, supplies for school, money for the movies, etc. I don’t know how it is for other parents, but it seems like as soon as I get a little bit of money in savings, one of the kids gets nominated for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in a youth leadership conference in Washington, D.C., and welp… there goes my savings!
3. They’re stressed.
Parenting is hard work – and stressful! Parents are constantly worried about or for their children. Are they safe in school? Are they hanging out with the right crowd? Are they being introduced to drugs and sex? (Lord, I hope not.) Am I doing a good job? All of these are normal and common stressors regarding parenting. To sum it up, parents are always worried about something.
4. They’re loving.
Parents love no one more than their children. If their child was ever in danger, they would switch places with him or her in a split-second. They love their kids and want to see them succeed in everything – school, sports, relationships, friendships. The want the best for their children, and they worry about failure. Parents hurt when their kids hurt, and they’re happy when their kids are happy. They tell their children that they love them a hundred times a day – sometimes to the point that it drives the kids crazy!
5. They’re approving.
Parents praise their children when they’re proud of them or when they try new things. They encourage them and guide them. They often lovingly push them when they’re at the point of giving up on something. They teach them that it’s okay to be different and that they should be leaders and not just followers of the crowd. In the case of a failure or setback, parents are the ones standing behind their children, heads held high, patting them on the back and encouraging them to try again. They’re not judgmental or humiliating.
6. They’re consistent.
“No, you can’t go to that party just because Johnny’s mom is letting him go. We’ve already discussed this, and I haven’t changed my mind.” Parents work hard to enforce rules that are beneficial to their children, even when that makes them the bad guys.
7. They’re role models.
Parents are always careful of their own actions and words because they know that they’re being watched by little eyes. They know that their kids notice every little thing, and they will repeat what they see and hear.
I’m sure we all know (or have even dealt with) that person who has children, yet doesn’t possess these characteristics. We’ve seen those people – or again, have dealt with those people – who fit in the following list:
1. They’re not tired.
They have no idea if their children are respectful or responsible, and they don’t clean up after or cook for their kids. In fact, sometimes they don’t know how their kids are doing in school or even what school they attend. They don’t attend sporting events or extracurricular activities. They could be called deadbeats.
2. They’re not broke.
Sometimes they may or may not contribute a few dollars towards expenses for the kids. In some cases, they only send money because they’re mandated by a court to contribute financially, so they do so grudgingly. They could be called deadbeats.
3. They’re not stressed.
They don’t care about what going on with the kids, unless it reflects poorly on them. Then, they’re quick to blame the other parent. But wait – If the kid does something spectacular, they’re all over that, suddenly the proud parent. They could be called deadbeats.
4. They’re not loving.
They don’t know what’s going on in school or who their kids are hanging out with. They’re not around often, so they really don’t know much at all about their kids. They might call their kid every once in a while, and they might not. They could be called deadbeats.
5. They’re not approving.
Often, they’re looking for things that aren’t perfect with their kids so they can complain about the other parent and try to make him or her look bad. They’re not around enough to encourage them to do anything or to support them in their endeavors. They could be called deadbeats.
6. They’re not consistent.
Again, they may or may not call or come around. They see their kids every once in a blue moon, often requesting to do so at the last second. Even then, they may pawn the kids off on their parents or other family. They don’t have rules or discipline guidelines because they’re usually trying to one-up the other parent. They could be called deadbeats.
7. They’re not role models.
They’re often off enjoying their lives without the hassles of children. They’re not responsible, consistent, or concerned with their well-being. They could be called deadbeats.
Now that we’ve looked at the characteristics of those with children, let me ask you my original question again:
How does one become a parent?
Ahh, now you see where I’m going with this. Not everyone who has a child deserves the title of “parent.”
Let me tell you something. If you are not there for your child financially, physically, or emotionally, then you are not a parent. You are a sperm or an egg donor only. You don’t have the right to “show up” only when your child is recognized for some awesome achievement, and you sure as hell don’t have the right to get that child’s praise and affection.
Sadly, most kids will still love these deadbeats only because they want nothing more than to feel loved and accepted by this donor. No child wants to believe that his or her parent doesn’t care about him.
We’ve all heard the saying that anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. I’m calling bull – No, not anyone can be a father. Anyone can be a sperm donor, but I’ll be damned that someone who only sees his kids for a week out of the year will be called a father. Or a dad. Or a parent. Yes, the same thing goes for women. I’ve seen moms who fit this category, as well. I don’t care if you gave birth to that child. If you’re not around to raise him, and you don’t financially support him, then you’re not a mother. You’re a deadbeat.
To all those parents out there who are busting their butts to raise their children without the other “donor,” good for you! Keep working hard to do your best with your kids. One day it will pay off, and we can all only hope that one day your kids will see the truth and will love you and respect you even more once they realize who was really there supporting them on their journeys through life.
And thank you to all those men and women out there who are helping to raise someone else’s children. It’s hard work to take the role of step-parent. You don’t have to raise children if they’re not yours, but you choosing to do so anyway speaks volumes about your amazing character.
To all those out there who have children – Be a parent. Visit your kids. Pay your child support. Come around every once in a while. Pick up the phone. Not for your child’s other parent, but for your child. Don’t be a deadbeat.