Dad's Most Important Job? A Son's Welfare

A father declines a job offer in another town so that his son can stay at his high school and play basketball for one final year. The gesture, made decades ago, "was a selfless, wonderful gift" still well remembered.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Father's Day weekend is a good time to reflect on parenting and the differences between yesterday's parents and those who changed diapers, teach values, and pay college tuitions these days. A colleague who recently attended a college graduation suggested one difference. Back in the day, he says, your name was called, you walked across the stage in cap and gown, and you received your diploma to the polite applause of your parents and family.

Nowadays he says parents stand up and hoot and holler when their child's name is called. Maybe it's because today's parents aren't comfortable in their role, he thinks. How could they be old enough to have children graduating from college? To prove they're still young, they respond to their child's achievement with the boisterous behavior of frat boys.

Another colleague reflecting on changes in parenting points out that there are no housewives in this generation. The label is stay-at-home moms. The terminology reveals a lot about the status of children today. They are the focus. Parents today are much more attentive than their parents were. They schedule play dates for their kids, sign them up for soccer, dance, music lessons, you name it.

Part of it is wanting the best for your child. Part of it is approaching parenting as if it were a profession with a child just another project. Is it good for the kids? It's hard to know for sure.

But a couple of young parents recently told me they have regrets about being so focused on their first child, who now craves attention and needs desperately to be in the spotlight. It's a difficult balancing act. There are no doubt millions of children who don't get the support they need. But there is something to be said for letting kids have their own space, move at their own pace and discover their own passions.

When I was growing up in the 1950s and '60s, my parents didn't organize play dates. They didn't really push me to play sports. I found those interests myself. My mother did urge me to play the tuba in our little high school band. But that was for the good of the community. The band needed a tuba and no one else would play it.

On the other hand, I have to admit that my father did something for me that might shame even today's over-attentive parents. He quietly declined a job offer in another town so I could stay at my high school and play basketball there one final year.

It was a selfless wonderful gift that I'll reflect on as I remember him on this Father's Day weekend.

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