Is There Any Proof That You Raised ‘Em Right?

Parents, I’ve gathered, are not in the business of patting themselves on the back for a job well done (that job being raising good kids). I know because I asked around. In search of examples of things their graduating kids said or did that made them proud of their parenting, I found that moms and dads were reluctant to credit themselves.

Is it a lack of confidence in their parenting skills, or is it something else?

One mom, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she believed her kids (now grown adults) had prospered in spite of her. “I mean, Charlie is a real gem, and everyone says so, so I suppose I did something right…” she said, trailing off, her attitude distinctly noncommittal. She was hestitant, however, to give any examples of his behaviors that were directly impacted by her parenting lessons.

Another mother I spoke with, Bunny Ellerin of Brooklyn, NY, has a son who is not of graduating age, and so I thought she might have an interesting perspective thus far. After all, it’s not like kids suddenly hit an age (is it 18? 20? 22?) and all of a sudden parents smack their heads and say, “Ok. I did it. He turned out right,” and proceed with the back patting.

When pressed about her parenting skills and examples for how she knew Michael, 10, was on the right track, Ms. Ellerin had this to say: “We have no examples…Ok, maybe one. Michael has quite a bit of empathy for those who are not as fortunate. He is genuinely saddened that some kids don’t have the same level of educational opportunities he does or that they live with parents who do not treat them well. One year I believe he made a donation from his allowance to St. Jude’s because he was really sad to see the kids suffering.”

Her husband, Michael’s dad, Geoff Vincent, was able to confirm this, explaining that when Michael saw the ad on TV for St. Jude’s, he asked, unprompted, to sponsor one of his dad’s friends who was running to support the charity.

But even in this, a fine example of undoubtedly learned compassion, neither Ellerin nor Vincent directly praises their parenting. We might conclude that Michael’s generosity and care, especially as demonstrated at such a youthful age, is a result of how he’s been raised, and yet it’s interesting to note that his parents don’t jump to claim that credit.

While I know that my own parents appreciate hearing my please and thank-yous, I don’t think they’d be eager to announce “Hey, we did something right with that one.” Or maybe they would. After all, my mom does like to say that she’s happy to see me still sending out snail mail thank you notes and birthday cards, since she taught me that when I was little.

My partner’s mother, modest as they come, was also reluctant to credit herself with her son’s good manners, but I know that his respect for his elders and his door-holding, subway seat-offering ways must have started in his childhood home.

Parents teach and instill values in their kids and hope to see them played out in their kids decision-making and behaviors with the outside world. On graduation day and beyond, hopefully moms and dads here and everywhere will be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the impact of their parenting skills. Perhaps, that’s all there is though–a peek here or there when your kid does or says something remarkable–and no proof beyond that is necessary.