Better you should cry than I should cry...

I think that the combination of irritation and empathy is the foundation of parent-child relationships.

I am a new parent. A recent conversation with my own mom about my future as a parent resulted in a major realization on my part about the challenges of raising a child. For all these years, I considered myself an expert on children after having filled the position for so long.

To my surprise, I found that parenting involved more than discipline, attention, and love; it entailed a great deal of compromise and understanding, as well. It was that word understanding that I had trouble understanding. It seemed odd to me that my parents could worry about - and understand - my actions at the same time. Here I was presented with a paradox that made parenting a mystery.

The interesting part of the conversation came a few hours later. In contemplating everything that my mother had said, I realized that the very contradiction that she said had ruled her parenting methods, also applied to my conduct as the child.

At times, I had found myself frustrated by my parents’ scolding while at the same time aware of the reason for it. My parents and I both acted with contradiction. It was as if both sides were parenting each other.

I now see that this combination of irritation and empathy is the foundation of parent-child relationships. I am lucky to have figured this out before becoming a parent myself, but how do other young people come to this realization? As I have learned from conversations with both of my parents, parenting is challenging. There is no list of “dos” and “don’ts,” easy twelve-step process, or handy guidebook on parent-child interactions, but I am surely not the only one who wishes that such materials existed. I am sharing my thoughts about this to contribute to something that may prevent a few pointless arguments in a family, simply make a parent’s job a little less intimidating or may just improve an ordinary dinner conversation.