I gave up on being a conventional parent long ago.
To be clear, I didn’t give up on my boys. Not by a long shot.
I just decided not to be the typical American dad, fixated on superlatives, shielding them from harm, pushing them to become little imitations of me, hoping that they would somehow evolve beyond my own shortcomings so that I could, by proxy, find success in their successes.
Instead, I tried to live and parent by the mantras I sought to teach them. Namely, that happiness is the only true aim in life. That each person must, individually, seek that happiness and commit to manifesting it in this world. And that, when it comes right down to it, everyone still does as they damn well please.
To not be surprised when people are insincere. To manage expectations. To recognize the moment and live within it. To laugh easily and anger reluctantly. To hold on to wonder and let go of regret.
To chase dreams impossible to catch, but to delight in the pursuit.
Each son, in his own way, heard what I said and made good on the lesson. Casting themselves into the world with abandon, finding purchase that felt right to them, shrugging off convention, wrestling with their own decisions and mistakes, and gaining strength therefrom.
I watch them retreat from me, rushing toward their own adventures, and I swell with unearned pride at who they have become.
More than they once were. Seekers of their own truths. Owners of their own happiness.