A young Keanu Reeves has a great line in Ron Howard’s 1989 film Parenthood. Talking to his future mother-in-law, who is overwhelmed by her troubled son and his disappointment with his father, Reeves’ character says, “you need a license to buy a dog, or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish! But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.”
Indeed, anyone can have kids. At a certain level, it’s just a matter of basic biology. At another level, it’s simply a matter of legal rights. You can marry into a family and have kids. You can have kids via adoption. Literally billions of people are doing some form of this right now, all over the world.
Lots of people want to have kids. The problem is, not enough want to be parents.
Being a parent is more than an act of nature or law. It’s more than going through the motions too. There are plenty of people who take their kids to school, buy them clothes, put food in their bellies, give them a warm bed to sleep in…but who are not really parents. They are more like legal guardians, checking boxes to get through the day and make sure they’ve satisfied the requirements for the lowest level of responsibility for their children’s survival.
That is not parenting. What we’re talking about here is commitment—commitment to actually change who you are and what your priorities should be. Commitment to sacrifice and service and the real work of making hard decisions, of loving not just having.
All of it, for those kids you brought into this world or who you gave a new world. That is true parenting. It’s a big difference.