I have made reference before to the three-legged stool and how important it is to have three strong legs to hold up and raise a child. The leg of the family, the leg of the school and the leg of the community must be all strong. I realized once again this weekend that even though children grow up and become adults, the role of the parent never ends. I try hard to see my sons once each quarter and since I haven't visited with them since we skied together over the Christmas holiday, I drove to their home in Missoula, Mont. last Thursday and we spent the weekend together.
When I taught parenting classes back in the mid 1980's in Montana my sons were young boys and I remember experimenting with them many of the concepts that I was introducing. Some of these included setting limits or boundaries, negotiating with children and how to discipline them. These concepts were very tough on us because we had our children young and neither of us had come from a family where these were taught.
Advance the scene 20 years and as any parent would be, I am proud of my boys and how their lives have turned out. They have really taken life slower than I did in many respects and are much more patient with the process than I ever was. For example both completed their initial education in their early 20's and decided to get established in careers before they moved around, settled down with a partner and had children.
In fact we talked about this at breakfast Sunday morning with four young couples all in their 20's. All of them and many of their friends are doing the same thing and all the young women were as determined as the men to continue the career path they started in college. They explained to me that having children isn't important now and they will see how things play out when they turn 30.
This is sure different than the attitudes our generation had and totally different from our parents. In the community I grew up most of the women settled down on the farm or ranch in their late teenage years and began raising children.
My sons and their friends also balance their lives with pleasure and recreational activities much more than their parents did. I remember when I was in my 20's I had a full time job and several part-time jobs just trying to make ends meet. It seems as though I had far less time for fishing, golfing, hiking and entertainment than they have now. Much of this stems back to the decisions early on not to start raising a family at 21 and working hard in a single career before they created a lot of additional expense.
Both of my sons are at turning points in their lives. My eldest is 29 and just finishing up a master's program at the University of Montana. He worked for four years in a research laboratory following his undergraduate degree and is now looking ahead towards his next move.
My younger son has four years of experience as an electrician and he too, has given his career and the company a great first start. It has introduced him to a variety of experiences that will be beneficial as he considers moving on. They bought a home together four years ago and are now finishing up the many projects necessary before they consider selling it. And both of them are considering their partner's careers along with their own as they look down the road a few years.
After spending a couple days with the two couples this weekend, mostly having fun camping, hiking and whitewater rafting I sat back as the father and realized how balanced they all are and how important it was to practice those "growing up" concepts many years ago. I shake my head sometimes to realize where they are now with their lives compared to where I was at the same age. I am grateful that the role of being a father has always been a high priority in my life and I understand now that that role will never end.