'Humble & Kind,' Facing Life after Parents Die
By: Archie Wortham

"We don't fully grow up until we lose our parents."

Living in an age of genetic materialism; sense of privilege; and kids moving back home, author Scott Simon, in his book "Unforgettable," talks about growing up and moving on. He reaches back and tries to cut the tentacles and strings that keep children from being all they can be so when parents die, a riot doesn't occur.

That riot may take many forms. It can be a mob at a funeral where sons and daughters talk about who loved their parents more. It can be self-pity as they get melancholic about what they didn't do for their parents. More importantly, it's an awakening. Whatever a parent's legacy may be will be left up to the children and how kids handle it is left up to them. So what do they do?

It's important parents mature to where they understand children need less and less to mature. It maybe very difficult to take the road Robert Frost talked about because parents have this attitude they could have done more. As a result, the children expect that. And when things come up short; jobs are lost; bills not paid, somehow parents find ways to guilt themselves into accepting that invoice as debts they owe rather than calling it what it is. Spoiled children who need an awakening before mom and dad die.

I have friends who have children putting up starting blocks to see who can get to the bank first after mom and dad are gone. Who's getting the house? Who's getting grandma's rings? Who's responsible for the family's fortune rather than the family's name.

That's an issue that's claiming our country. The petulance of pettiness of what and who is right and who's wrong rather than finding how to be "humble and kind," like Tim McGraw recently articulated in his song. How can we fully grow up if we don't take steps to cross that path and do it while our parents are still breathing? One of the barriers is parents not allowing that to happen.

Incessant callings and consistent inquisitions get nothing but attitude and rather than turn that loose, some parents become reticent and recalcitrant and wonder why Johnny won't call, or Mary won't friend them on Facebook. It's all about freedom. Cutting the apron strings and pushing them out the door and telling them it's time mom and dad are allowed to live the rest of their lives as they should be allowed to do, with a nest that's really empty.

I ask my students how they expect to be in charge if they constantly spend someone else's' money. I hear that that's the way their parents want it. These parents don't have a life and live vicariously through their children who are disrespectful, lazy, with minimal clues of what life is all about. So I ask again, is it really true children don't really grow up until their parents die? The clue to the answer is how much are the parents involved in the lives of their children and how much do parents expect their children to be involved in theirs.

Unlike many of my friends, I grew up in a house without my mom and dad. I longed to be surrounded by words from a mom and dad that pertained to me. Many homes today mirror that situation and as a result, many children I teach don't know what's it like to be in a two-parent home, or have friends whose parents have not been divorced. So the finality of a parent passing doesn't really have the effect it once did.

Becoming a man, a husband or a father in that order should be predicated on being sure your son or daughter leave, because you have raised them to leave. You have raised them so they are capable of handling life. You have raised them so they are capable of encountering life and know the importance of being kind and humble in life.

Once we master the reality that we are not images of our children; and they are not extensions of our lives but masters of their fate, then as dads who care, we should not worry about what will happen when we die because it won't matter. Our sons and daughters will do whatever they want anyway. And as dads who care, the sooner we release ourselves from the fiction we owe our children anything, the sooner we can live the rest of our lives in peace.

Why wait until we die? No one wants that. Certainly not a dad who cares about himself and more importantly about his family.