Parent is a noun, not a verb. In late twentieth and the current centuries it has been relegated to verb status by many who speak to the art of being a parent, as in “to parent.” Leaving the semantic argument aside, there are developmental challenges along the way of being a parent. How we spend time with, coach, and nurture a two year old is different than for a five year old, twelve year old, twenty-five year old.
One quote I found: “Parenting isn’t a noun but a verb–an ongoing process instead of an accomplishment. And that no matter how many years you put into the job, the learning curve is, well, fairly flat.” Jodi Picoult House Rules
When our children are little we are in active verb mode. We nurture our kids not just by our presence; we set the standards, the expectations, the family values. We guide, we play with, we love our children. We do their laundry, buy, cook and serve their food, coach their teams and attend their games, help with homework, be sure the homework is done, take them and their friends places, teach them to ride bikes and practice reading and math, celebrate their accomplishments, wipe tears from their eyes, and tuck them in at night with stories and hugs.
Then they start to shun our verb like presence in their lives, brushing it off like they brush off lint on their dark sweaters with the apparently emerging demonstration that they care about how they look (even if that look isn’t one we particularly like). Well, actually, it’s all the better from their perspective if it’s a look we won’t particularly like. The practice we got with our two and four year olds, hearing “no, I do it myself” should serve us well when not a decade later their cry is undeniable.
I don’t know about you, but for me I was in boot camp training to transition from verb to noun.
“Mom, why are you bugging me about my work?” “Mom, are you going to come to college and make sure I get enough sleep and eat the right food?” These were all good points, but in my mind I had the answers ready, even as I tried, often unsuccessfully, to avoid sharing them: “I am still paying the bills.” “Maybe you don’t know how important this is.” “You think you are older than you are or act.” My thoughts did not dampen the push back, nor should it have.
I admit to jealousy that some parents have an easier time with this transition than I did. A concept and an image both helped me. The image is of those bobble head dolls that sit on dashboards. My job: imitate them as much as I could. The concept: stop parenting as a verb and embrace parenting as a noun.
My sons are adults now. Unless I am asked or it involves my resources, there really is no need to be a verb. Sometimes it is hard.
The other night I was giving my son a ride somewhere. All day I had been worrying about something that (1) was not really my business and (2) was really not worth worry and (3) did I mention it was not my business? So I brought it up in the car and the words floated, no rushed from my mouth in a torrent I couldn’t stop soon enough to prevent them reaching my son’s ears. As the sound waves were traveling, I realized I had just taken a giant step backward. Verb, giving advice that was not asked for or needed. And my son’s radar is finely tuned for sniffing out parental back sliding. He called me out, suggested (with amazing tact, given the visual darts coming my way) alternative wording. And I apologized.
Some kids are more tolerant of their parents and some maybe even enjoy frequent meddling (verb) by their parents. I guess I can thank my kids for the hard core training they give me. Wait, that’s a verb! Can I look forward to noun from them some day?