I got asked to do the eulogy at an elderly uncle’s funeral. I said lots of nice things about him – that’s what you’re supposed to do when they’re dead – but as I was finishing saying what a good bloke he was, one of his sons bellowed, “No, he wasn’t. He was a grumpy miserable old coot,” which made everyone uncomfortable and embarrassed – except my uncle, who seemed completely unmoved by it.
It sometimes has flickered across my mind what my kids will say about me at my own funeral. I hope they will say something like, “He was still a very good-looking man for a 107-year-old. And what was he doing hang-gliding at his age?” But what would they say then? Have I done enough as a dad to deserve a nice speech?
Parenting is hard work and there are lots of opportunities to stuff up, I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I am encouraged that the most central part of parenting is simple enough – if your kids feel safe at home and loved by you, you’ve got your pass mark in the parenting exam. Of course there are lots of other things that are important and useful – I’ve got bookshelves full of advice on good things parents can do to improve their grades – but you already have your pass.
I reckon if a child feels safe and loved then it’s amazing what else you can do wrong as a parent and find your kids are still just fine. Safety – real physical safety of course, but also emotional safety that comes from consistency, your reliable presence and a freedom from fear. Also love, expressed in warmth, words, looks, kindness, hugs and time together. Tick those off, and you can look forward to really enjoying your funeral. Well, you know what I mean.