Fly, be free

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

My son, Hunter, graduated high school last week. He turns 18 on July 4.

He's off to college on the East Coast in August. I know he's going to do well. Except for a slight teenaged spaciness, he's directed, not over-anxious or ambitious, and fairly well adjusted. He's a good kid in ways I never was.

I've got to be honest, though. I don't know how much of the credit I earned for this. I'm horrible at talking about my emotions, and I'm pretty sure he's every bit as repressed where that is concerned. I never encouraged him to be especially social; I hope he doesn't hole up in a dorm room. I don't think I ever forced him in directions he didn't want to go. The only exception to that I can think of was forcing him to drive at 16, but again, that was supposed to expand his horizons. If anything, he's had too much self-determination, but that quality is in his DNA. His mother and I discussed ways to allow him to be his own person from before he was even conceived (physically, not metaphorically).

Parents get a lot of the blame when their kids go wrong. They get a lot of the credit when kids go right. I don't think either is necessarily earned. I mean, if I look for ways I positively influenced him and compare them to the positive ways he influenced me, the benefit was mostly mine.

I think one thing I did well was I never laid a finger on him. My parents beat me routinely—hands to paddles to straps to fists—and I never got over my offended sense of justice. I'm sure I yelled too many times, but maybe I didn't damage his psyche much. I guess the shrink will let me know in 20 years or so.

So what is a parent's contribution? You encourage your children in the right ways and try not to discourage inquisitiveness. You try to be honest about the banal things in life without fostering cynicism. You foster self-confidence, and try to set an example of work ethic. You just treat them like you wish you'd been treated, right?

I don't know. It doesn't seem like enough, but somehow it's going to have to be.