It’s hard to picture Fred Rogers as a parent. Of course, we can easily recall him as Mr. Rogers, patiently and lovingly explaining things to generations of young viewers at home. But that was his work. Could he have really been like that at his home? Or was he much less perfect there—losing his temper, stressed about money, involved with himself?
Obviously no one really knows the answer to this but his kids, but from the various recent documentaries we are told Fred Rogers was a great dad. We know that Fred Rogers tried very hard to be the same kind and understanding man that he was for other people’s children with his own. Did he have his own issues? His own flaws? Absolutely. Who doesn’t?
But he also knew the stakes were too high to simply leave it at that. When we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. From that time on, there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can. Our children are extensions of ourselves.
Our responsibilities as parents extend far beyond just putting a roof over their head and packing lunches for school. It includes working on our own emotional issues and ourselves so that the little people in our orbit don’t get thrown out of whack (remember John Wooden’s advice). We can’t be consummate professionals at work only to come home, loosen our tie or our belts, and then just wallow in our personal status quo. We have to be growing, improving, actively working to provide a good example and a safe place for our kids to grow and learn.
We chose to bring them in the world. They depend on us and watch our every move. Now we owe it to them to live up to the stakes of the situation we have created. Every. Single. Day.