Must Do Parenting isn’t permanent. The goal is that when that phase of the career ends, your Must Do partner has a solid relationship with each one of the kids—and a wicked romance with you.
That is why one of my favorite Must Do Parent movies is “The Rookie.” This baseball movie opens with scenes of young Jim Morris pitching a baseball followed by a scene where his father, a Navy chief, calls the boy into the house. “Son, your mother and I need to talk to you.”
Every time the dad opened his mouth, that kid was facing another move. Another opportunity to be the new kid in the weird pants. Another town that did not have a decent Little League. And the dad was not particularly good at softening that blow.
Unlike other movies that feature Must Do Parents as workaholic jerks, this one was different. The father recognizes the demands he put on his kids, attempts repair, achieves forgiveness. The critics might have thought it was sappy, but that is what happened in my family.
My dad was a Must Do Parent, an Air Force fighter pilot. He was in Vietnam and Korea and Thailand during the pattern forming years of our family. It made it easy for him to allow our mother to “do” for us, instead of “doing” for us himself. It was a rookie mistake. It meant we had a cordial relationship that had us asking for Mom when we phoned because we couldn’t think of anything to talk about with Dad.
Then one day, my brother and I were teasing him about how much he did for his baby granddaughter. “Gosh, you’ve already done more for her than you ever did for me,” I said in that truer-things-are-said-in-jest way we have in our family.
My father turned to my brother and me. “There are a lot of things I should have done different for you kids,” he said. My brother and I shot looks at each other. We got the message. And after that things were different between us and our dad.
We can’t afford to forget that concept when raising kids with a Must Do partner. The years we have kids at home are not the only years available for a relationship. The reason we put together strategies to keep MDPs and kids close is because that is the ideal relationship. But if it doesn’t work out at first, there is time later. People do change. Accommodation and growth and change are all possible. Because your Must Do partner won’t always be a rookie and we all can learn from our mistakes.