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This month will recognize the 'Good Parent'

June 04, 2006|by LYN WIDMYER

My daughter refers to her father as "the good parent."

I used to have that title but was demoted to "the other parent" when Molly turned 13. I remember the exact moment. Molly arrived home from school and I asked her innocently, "How was your day?"

"WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS INTERROGATING ME?" she replied, and stomped off to her room. That episode marked the beginning of my fall from parental grace.

I soon learned that motherly skills mastered and perfected in a child's early years are completely and totally irrelevant in the teen years.

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Teenagers, according to child psychologist Thomas Phelan, like parents to be "observers." These parents are sympathetic listeners who rarely intrude and trust their child to handle things. These parents "let go" and help their child make the difficult transition to independence and adulthood.

"Letting go" is not in my parental phrase book. I shepherded Molly from birth through grade school. Her dad was always there but I was the one who managed her social calendar of birthday parties and play dates, volunteered one day a week in her school, took her shopping and helped with school projects.

I was the nurturing parent. For 12 years, I kept my daughter's life on track and in order.

It was really hard to discover that "nurturing" is not a quality that appeals to teenagers. My daughter clearly preferred my husband's quiet, nonjudgmental ways to my hands-on, opinion-laden style of child rearing.

Molly wanted her dad, not me, to be part of her teenage life. While Molly was in high school, Ron served on the front line of parenting. He was treasurer of Band Boosters, chaperoned overnight school trips around the state and helped Molly with science projects. Once he stayed up all night helping Molly cut out parts for a 6-foot replica of a DNA strand.

I dutifully performed my role as the Other Parent, telling Molly, "You know if you had started this earlier you wouldn't need to stay up all night."

Molly survived the high school years just fine. I did too, even though I admit to being a little jealous of the close relationship between my daughter and my husband.

My daughter just completed her freshman year of college and is home for the summer. When Molly slips out the door to join friends my husband says, "Have fun." Not me. I ask where she is going, what time will she be home; who will she be with and whether she has her cell phone.

It is not easy getting answers because Molly is practically running to her car. I have to scream my loving reminder to drive safely as she speeds down the driveway.

Maybe one day I will be able to regain my title as the "good parent." Until then, I am thankful that at least my husband knows how to let go.

Happy Father's Day, Ron, from the "Other Parent."




Lyn Widmyer is a Charles Town, W.Va. resident who writes for The Herald-Mail. Contact her by e-mail at rwidmyer@msn.com.

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