A couple of weeks ago while on the road, I hit play on – you guessed it – a parenting podcast. I was just casually listening at first, but then a question caught my attention. To paraphrase, a host asked, “If our kids knew us as people would they like us?”
As the hosts advanced the discussion, they talked about the fact that our kids don’t really know who we are. As far as they’re concerned, we’re just familiar faces and they’ve gotten used to us being there. It’s their job to be kids and ours to be their parents and make sure they’re taken care of. But do they know us? Our personalities? What makes us tick? Do they know how we act when we’re not in mom or dad mode?
And if they did, would they like us?
Most kids see their parents as superheroes. We are larger-than-life figures there for them. We provide for them. They depend on us from the moment they enter the world until they branch off on their own – and often well beyond that if we’re honest. We’re their safety nets. As our kids grow from toddlers to adolescents and then into young adulthood, the parent-child dynamic changes, but the fact remains that we’ll always “just” be mom or dad. And for the most part, they like that.
But the reality is they often don’t know any better. Or to put it a different way, they don’t really know us, the person.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t realize our parents are actually people until we are much older ourselves and have our own families. It is then we finally understand some of the things our parents talked about and tried to teach us growing up. The lightbulb goes off. We finally get to sit at the adult table and hear their perspective on various topics. We see how they act around others and analyze it with a different lens. It can be a confusing revelation because when we finally realize our parents are people and see them for who they are, we are faced with a dilemma of whether we like what we see.
As I wrote in a previous article, one of the many lessons learned with age is realizing the parents you idolized growing up aren’t perfect. They aren’t superheroes. They’re human. Humans with flaws, emotions, insecurities, dreams and fears of their own, just like you and I.
And you may or may not like that person.
As I continued to listen to the podcast discussion, I wondered to myself if, as a dad, I’m “likable.” If my kids knew that sometimes I’m not the best person when I’m not in dad mode, would they still like me? If they knew some of my flaws, would their faces still light up when they see me walk through the door? Maybe they’ll be like me and not realize that their dad is not “perfect” until later in life. Maybe it won’t matter then.
What I can do is be as open and honest with them about who I am. Share my life experiences with them and let them know why I made certain decisions. I hope that, especially with my son, he’s able to see me feel emotions. If I’m as transparent with my kids as possible, they may see that Dad is a real person, and maybe they’ll still like me.