I want to talk about my dad for a few minutes today. I've been reading a parenting book by the same guy who wrote the meditation book that has helped me this past month, Jon Kabat-Zin. One of his paragraphs stood out to me in which he talks about how the best thing we can do for our children is to strive to become non-needy parents, parents who have learned to become whole in themselves and are therefore not dependent on their children to make them feel of worth in any way. I really feel the truth of this. And I think my father is a good example of someone who does this.
From the time I left home, my father began treating me like a friend instead of a dependent. Early on, I was still dependent in many ways, but he always respected my feelings of independence. For example, he would slip me money while I was at college, but when he did I knew it would never be mentioned, never have any strings of accountability or gratitude attached.
In fact, he has always been especially good at giving gifts, because he can totally let go once he has given something. If he gives something to me, or to my children, once it leaves his hands he will never mention it again. He owns it no more in his mind or heart; he has truly given it away. I think this is so utterly cool and respectful. It is true giving.
As I became an adult, my father showed respect for my decisions about my life (some of which turned out to be wrong, and I think he knew it at the time), and spoke to me respectfully, the way I think he would have spoken to another adult. He began to show interest in getting to know me as an adult, questioning me about my interests and my worldview. He made me feel very free to be myself. I like how he asks me about my writing, and about other things going on with me. I feel like he sees me as a friend. It has become one of my greatest joys just to sit and talk with him, because I feel his interest in me and the ways I have become myself.
There are still times when I need him as my father. But when I do, it is up to me to ask for what I need (a blessing, counsel). And then, after giving it freely, he never mentions it again. He doesn't even ask if I followed his counsel, for example, because like his gifts, once given, it is not his any more and he continues to respect my agency, my individuality, my choices. I think this is a really amazing thing. I hope that I can become this kind of parent—there for my kids, interested in my kids, but not requiring anything from them. Because I think it is the only way to really foster a friendship between us once they are grown.
(Oh, and one more thing that makes my dad so cool: he married the coolest, sweetest, giving-est, loving-est woman ever to be my stepmother and my children's grandmother. Way to go, Dad.)