This post was originally published on my PhDadBlog.
Happy Father’s Day Week!
In honor of Father’s Day, the PhDadBlog is sharing a Dads Roundtable throughout the week. If you missed the first few parts of the Dad Roundtable, please click on the following links to catch up:
In today’s installment, the dads reflect on two different spheres of influence on their parenting: the effect their own parents had on their parenting, as well as the role of religion.
I think an important part of being a parent that’s easy to lose sight of is the fact that to a certain extent, whether we realize it or not, we’re teaching our own children how to be parents some day. Can you share some thoughts on how you think your own parents shaped your parenting? For better or worse?
MUNIB: I think the way I most clearly see my parents’ effect on my parenting is when it kind of creeps up on me at unsuspecting times. Maybe I’m faced with a new situation or something and I suddenly have this knee-jerk response that matches how my parents would have responded to it in my childhood. It ends up being a response that I don’t personally have a reason for, and if my child or wife asks “why?” I don’t really have any explanation. It’s uncomfortable but so important. And I’m so grateful when they do ask me “why” because I immediately see the complete lack of personal rationale for that response and am able to correct it. I’m trying to think of a specific example, and the only one I can think of is circumcision. Before I had kids, it was a never a question for me that if I had a son, he would be circumcised because that’s just what you did. I never put much thought into it until my wife asked “why,” and I had absolutely no reason to give her. It was an incredibly educational moment for me.
On a more positive note, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that a lot of my parents’ behaviors and tendencies which annoyed me as a teen are actually incredibly beautiful reflections of their character. In particular, I’m always blown away by how genuinely generous they are with their time, hospitality, love, and even material possessions. That quality is something I try to consciously model not only for myself, but also for the sake of my own children. The guest-host relationship is really important to me, and I hope my kids will work hard to show hospitality to others in the same amazing way my parents have always done, and which I do my best to emulate.
VAHID SMITH: The best thing I got from my parents was their love. I know that may sound cliche but it’s true. You know how there should be a certain fear of God? I believe that the reason you should fear God is because God loves you. You should be afraid to disappoint or take God’s love for granted. I feel the same way about my parents love. I can only remember one outlier time that I was spanked as a child. The rest of the time I behaved well in order to return my parents’ love. If I ever did something wrong, the worst part was seeing their disappointment or having to tell my parents. Because my parents were always some how understanding and would talk me through my actions, I felt just enough comfort to tell them when I did something wrong. I hope that my own kids have feel this same kind of love and fear of me. Apart from that, I actually think I have chosen many different paths of parenting than my parents.
VAHID N’DOBE: I was raised by my mother, who after her husband passed away had to do the job of raising all 4 of us by herself. I’ve learned so much more about her becoming a parent myself. I now have a better appreciation and understanding of how great and super human her accomplishments were as a parent. Today we’re still fighting for equal rights for women in areas like work compensation etc, in the so called “civilized nations” of the world, but I have to remind myself every time how crazy it was that she raised us all by herself in a culture where gender inequality was so much more a problem. It certainly helps me put things in proper perspective sometimes, when I find myself complaining and whining about how hard it is to be a parent. If it’s tough for two people, then imagine how hard it could be for someone trying to do it alone. This lesson of perseverance is something I constantly have to remind myself of whenever i feel really overwhelmed being a parent.
One other thing that has always stood out is that spirituality was at the core of her life and her efforts as a parent. I don’t think she could have been able to do it without spirituality. It certainly enlarges a person’s capacity to deal with anything. That’s something I hope I can emulate from her.
Now on the other hand, growing up without a Dad around as a role model, has been a challenge becoming a parent because there hasn’t been much of a reference point for me as a father. It’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s like having a clean slate to write on…. but definitely a challenge because in a sense you have to figure it all out.
What role, if any, does religion play in your parenting?
CHASE: This is a lot more difficult to answer than one might think. We are religious people, but not in the “attend services three times a week” type. I wouldn’t say that religion is in the forefront of our lives; Or is it? Looking at it through the lens of parenthood, I would imagine then it plays a fundamental role, even if it outwardly appears to just be in the background. We’re talking about the most crucial point in one’s life, where parents lay the groundwork for their child’s moral programming. Our ethics are deeply informed, some would say wholly constructed by our religion. Thus it has direct influence on every single decision we make, every word we say, whether we realize it or not. This aspect is compounded by the responsibility of parenthood, since our actions in raising our kids will have implications for generations to come, as our progeny continue to proliferate and raise grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are still informed, however slightly, by the foundation we provide right now. It’s a pretty big deal then, I guess.
VAHID SMITH: Religion plays a huge role in my parenting. As I am a Baha’i, I believe that I am responsible for teaching my children moral and spiritual values. I can not force my beliefs on my children but I can guide them the best I can, at least until the age of 15 (Baha’i age of maturity). At age 15 I believe my children should have the spiritual maturity to choose their own spiritual path. All that being said it is important to keep in mind balance while parenting. If I am shuvving religion down my kids throats, I’m sure it will not be received well. Obviously it is important to be a good example for our kids right? However, if I am so involved in Bahai activities that I begin to neglect some of my home and family life, I now believe that I have done a disservice to my family and my children. I have seen many of my friends that have appeared to stray from a “Baha’i life” while their parents also appeared to be some of the most active Baha’is around. I believe that as a Baha’i, my priority is my family and children. My most important goal for my children is to teach them to be virtuous. Other types of education such as academics, arts and athletics come after I hope to teach my children to be loving, caring, empathizing, thoughtful, patient, powerful, confident and ethical human beings.
MUNIB: I’d have to say that religion plays a very big role in my parenting. Or at least, I try to make it so. Religion is very important for me, especially – as Vahid and Chase both already alluded to – the source of positive moral and ethical values that would ideally be reflected in my children their entire lives. As a Baha’i – a religion that places such incredible emphasis on unconditional love and unity – I try my best to let those values I claim to hold be reflected in how I treat my kids. Sometimes it’s really tough. And I think what makes it especially hard for me is recognizing the rift in my own sense of coherence. That is, I can see how what I’m saying I believe doesn’t match what I’m actually doing. That feeling sucks. But it also provides the impetus for me to push myself to do better next time.
JON: Religion is an integral part of my relationship with my spouse and our attitudes towards our children. I agree with the comments above by Vahid and Chase, in that religion does affect the moral and ethical values I teach to my children (or will teach — again, my son’s only four months old). More than that, religion doesn’t just affect what I teach, but also how I act and how I feel towards my family. As devout Mormons, we believe that becoming and being parents is one of the most divine, sacred experiences we can have in this life. The way we see it, we don’t just have a son–we have a precious one of God’s children that He has entrusted into our care. Of all the titles of respect and admiration given to deity, it is significant that He has asked us to address Him as Father.
VAHID N’DOBE: Jon, Thank you for your post. I am happy not everyone here is a member of the Bahá’í Faith. I was raised in a Bahá’í family and religion played an important role in my upbringing. I guess it makes sense that giving my children a spiritual foundation is very important to me. However, as in everything else, there needs to be some amount of moderation and balance. The last thing any parent wants is for their efforts to result in bigotry and ignorant fanaticism. This is the area where I really hope and pray that I get right.
Come back tomorrow for the 7th and FINAL installment of this year’s Dads of the Roundtable in which dads share parenting goals for the next year and some final thoughts.