I don't understand other parents. Now that my elder son, Avery, is in Kindergarten we have more cause to come into contact with other parents. Since Stacia and I had kids younger than many in our peer group most of my friends have not had children. Interacting with other parents of a variety of ages I am frequently confounded. It seems that I just don't think like them. Here are some examples:
Many parents appear to believe their own children are innately good. While I am extremely proud of my boys and tentatively think they are growing into fine human beings, I definitely don't regard them as little bundles of innocence. They are often selfish and sometimes violent. If an adult behaved as they do I would be horrified. Clearly they deserve extra license for being children, but that is just my point - why should we regard children as little angels when they're not? They require more tolerance than adults.
Many parents appear to center their lives around their children. The most important relationship I have with a human being is with my wife. I love my kids very much, but I also want them to grow up and leave my house and lead lives of their own and form bonds to people they love that supercede their relationship with me. They will hopefully outlive me and not be devastated by that fact, because though they love me I am not the most important person in their life. While they are young, of course, the parental relationship is paramount, but even at this age it is good, in my opinion, for them to know that the world doesn't revolve around them.
Many parents experience anxiety about their children suffering. I just take it as a given that my children will suffer. I don't see my primary role as a "protector". Yes, I want them to survive in good health and sound mind into adulthood. I'm not saying I don't care if they get hurt. I'm just saying I don't have any illusions that I'm going to be able to protect them from most pain and I don't have any guilt or worry about that fact. More than anything, actually, I want my children to be able to empathize with people who are suffering and how can they do that if they never suffer themselves?
Many parents say what they want most for their children is for them to be happy. What I want most for my children is for them to be good people who make the world a better place. I suppose you could say that true happiness comes from virtue and so these two things are the same, but I think the first one often gets expressed in ways I disagree with. For example, "I want my children to be better off than me financially," or "I want my children to have a better education than I had," or "I want my children to not experience the pains I have experienced (divorce, alcoholism, depression etc...)." I think it is possible to conceive of a person who is "blissfully ignorant" - someone who feels emotionally content, but is blind to their own complicity in evil. I want my children to grow up into adults who are both happy and good, but if I were forced to choose between the two, I would rather they were good than happy.
Perhaps more parents than I realize feel the way I do, but they just don't say so. Or maybe I am very deficient in parental affection. I don't bring it up to criticize other parents. Most of them are probably better than me. I guess I bring it up because it bothers me a bit to feel so out of sync with what a majority of parents seem to believe.