Why did the fire engine wear red suspenders?
To keep its pants from falling down.
Okay, I admit, it doesn’t make any sense. It never did. But when I was four years old, I’d walk around repeating it, and I’d always get a big laugh, especially from my mom and dad.
Last Friday marked the second anniversary of my dad’s death. My mom’s been gone for almost twenty years now.
When you’re growing up, your parents are always there, looking out for you. You long to be grown up and on your own, independent, out of their reach, but then the excrement hits the fan, and the world reveals something you hadn’t expected, and you reach out to your parents, and they guide you through.
Then the day comes when you realize, this is it, I’m grown up now, I’m independent. You start making your way through the world. You’re armed with the tools your parents gave you, and they’re still there, to help you out if you find yourself in a bind, to guide and advise you, to show you how to use those tools. More than anything, you hope for their approval. You want to make them proud, and at the same time, you know that in those moments you come up short, the times you fail, they’ll forgive you, because they love you.
The years go by and you become comfortable enough in the world to have children of your own. Your parents age, and they change, your relationship with them changes, but they’re still there, they’re still your mom and dad, and you love them as much as you ever have.
I miss them both. I miss making them laugh, and laughing with them. I was always a show-off, a ham, and they were my first and favorite audience. When they laughed, their faces lit up, and everything was okay. There’s never been anything as satisfying as making my mom and dad laugh.
I’ve been thinking about how lucky I was. My mom and dad may or may not have been the world’s greatest parents, but they were the greatest parents I could have ever had. I’ve been thinking about what makes a good parent, and a few things become apparent when judging a parent:
Good parents are not perfect. Good parents are not cool. Good parents sacrifice for their children. Good parents let their children develop their own interests. Good parents raise their children to be independent. Good parents have a sense of humor. Good parents learn from their mistakes, and let their children make their own. Good parents want better for their children than they had. Good parents respect each other, and respect their children, too. Children of good parents never forget that no matter what happens, their mom and dad love them.
I learned these things from my mom and dad. Whether, as a parent myself, I practiced them or not is up to my children to decide. I’m certain I fall short of the standard my mom and dad set. But I’ve tried, and I like to think that, seeing the beautiful full grown adults my children have grown into, they’d be as proud of them as I am.
Oh, and I almost forgot: good parents laugh at the stupid jokes you tell, and let their children show off for them every now and then.