When my kids were 4 and 6, I self-published a parenting book called, "If You Can't Make Time, Don't Make Children: How To Spend More Time with Your Kids."
Don't bother trying to order it, it has been out of print for a long time.
In the book, I tried to convey the importance of spending as much time with kids before they are grown and gone, and I included real-world examples of how working parents could carve out more time at home. It wasn't "chicken soup," it was meat and potatoes.
Now, 16 years later, the book seems premature and bordering on arrogant. After all, my parenting experience had started only a few years earlier and did not include any parenting of pre-teens, teens or young adults. As I have discovered since through on-the-job training, there was still so much to learn.
Today, at 57, I am a single parent, though the parenting part of my relationship with my children, now 20 and 22, has become more of a management status to ensure that they continue on their paths, rather than help them create those paths.
Parents never really know who their kids are until the kids are tested; that is, until some event happens in which they must exhibit the strength of their character. Earlier this week, my son, Roy, 20, was instrumental in bringing a family back together. Thanks to him, a teenager who chose to leave home for an unspecified reason and time was reunited with her parents. The parent-daughter relationship is still not as healthy as it could be, but at least they are now face-to-face and able to talk things through.
At the same time, my daughter, Kaitlyn, 22, began a new job with a large company. She went through three days of training after which she received the location of her new position. She called me minutes later to tell me that she was not happy with the area in which she would be working and I told her come home so we could talk about it. When she walked in the door, I asked her to sit down to discuss the job and she said, "Honestly, Dad, I'm over it. I was depressed for about 15 minutes, then I realized that I was just going to have to work hard to prove myself, then request a transfer."
These two examples of their character came just four weeks after my fiancée, Laura, was facing what could have been an extremely unpleasant personal situation. As the four of us sat in my car about to go into the home where this situation was unfolding, my son said, "Don't worry, Laura, we've got your back." Roy and Kaitlyn proved it that night and they proved it again earlier this week.
At dinner Tuesday night, I recalled all of these incidents and told them that I don't know if I have ever been more proud of them.
I've tried to be the best father I know how to be. My late wife, Cay, was a fantastic mother. Though I know that there are many roads to being a good parent, I do believe that these are the common threads running through the fabric of most successful moms and dads: They set personal examples for the behavior they want to see in their kids, they establish boundaries so that their kids know what is acceptable and what is not, and, most important, both parents spend a lot of time with their children.
Parenting success does not come through sacrificing a quantity of time for the so-called "quality time."
Not much has changed since I wrote my book. There are still too many two-income homes in which one parent could stay home, too many parents focusing on the wrong things, and too many parents who need to set better examples.
There are no plans to revise the book at this time. But if I do revise it one day, I will include a chapter on character development and proudly use my own kids as the first examples.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.