Family is wonderful. None of us would be here, the writer Aaron Thier once put it, if people hadn’t taken care of us when we were small. Somebody birthed us, raised us, drove us to school, kept us safe.
So naturally we feel an affinity and obligation to our family, as we hope our own children will. Being around them is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s primal. But it’s also important that we realize, as we get older as parents, that we always remember that our job is to lift our children up, to push them forward, and never to hold them back. That’s why we have to work on ourselves. That’s why we can’t get complacent or selfish.
For all the talk amongst the privileged about all the pressure on high school students to go to college, the reality is that many, many kids are held back by their parents. Because their parents are afraid of losing their kids, because they don’t value education, because they don’t believe their kids can actually make something of themselves. Plenty of other people lose out on opportunities to better themselves (by moving, by breaking old patterns of behavior) because their own parents are inflexible, stubborn, and self-involved. Too many marriages are taxed and burdened by the parents of one or both of the spouses who still can’t seem to get their act together, whose issues and baggage spill outward, who can’t seem to get this whole “grandparent” thing.
Remember: Our kids owe us nothing. We owe them everything. That’s how this works. Wherever you are in your journey as a father—with a newborn at home, or waiting for your kids’ kids to have kids—you must never forget this. Your job is to lift them up, to push them forward, to help them become who they can become.