Cary News: Opinion

Parent Pathways: A parent’s struggle to raise a good person

By Christa Gala


It was just one day after our first big snow when it started raining in the kitchen.

I was typing and stopped to listen, trying to pinpoint the sound. I went to investigate and, sure enough, water was trickling through every light fixture, like some kind of apocalyptic showdown.

Taking the stairs two at a time, I yelled at my sixth-grade son, home on a snow day, to get out of the shower. I flung open the shower curtain, embarrassing us both, and we ran to the kitchen where water was now pouring from the light fixtures. If it wasn’t the shower, what was flooding the house?

This is where things get a little fuzzy because I went into full-blown, hand-wringing panic mode. This is my modus operandi. I keep thinking eventually I’ll transition to the 15 percent of the population that does well in a crisis, but it hasn’t happened yet.

My son discovered the floor of the upstairs master bath covered in about an inch of standing water, the toilet spewing seemingly from its base.

My husband, through a frantic phone call, told me to lift the arm mechanism in the back of the toilet.

This didn’t work.

Then he told me to turn off the water to the toilet, which didn’t work, either.

Finally, I ran downstairs and cut off the water to the entire house, by now sobbing into the phone, “Come home, come home!”

He told me he was on his way and hung up.

I decided to check the kitchen to make sure the flooding through the ceiling had stopped, and then I would address the pond in the upstairs bathroom.

I found my son in his underwear standing on a kitchen chair with a large bowl, catching water from the ceiling. He’d placed other containers – and even a toy rowboat from the garage – strategically around the kitchen to catch the other leaks. He’d also retrieved a few beach towels and spread them out to sop up the water leaching from the soggy ceiling.

He’d done the same thing in the master bath while I’d been on the phone.

I was surprised, and relieved he’d gotten a head start.

I bring this up not to brag on him but because I’m always wondering how to raise a good man.

I was lucky enough to grow up with good men – my brothers and my father and now my husband – and I want to raise a good man.

But I’m never exactly sure how to go about it. How do I teach him how to treat women, how to treat all people? How do I teach him to think for himself and be fiscally responsible? Humble and selfless? Charity-minded?

What about integrity – to work hard and make good decisions, even if no one notices?

Teaching this stuff is a lot harder than changing diapers, and with much higher stakes.

I think of my kid as a wheel with five cogs. The cogs are strengths: intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual. It’s the emotional and spiritual cogs that I often can’t figure out how to build.

I talk to him about what I think it means to be a good person, and these discussions are usually met with rolling eyes and slouching shoulders.

But on that day, he stepped up and acted responsibly, not like a child.

It dawned on me that day that maybe building these cogs is a long journey with contributions from a lot of people – teachers, coaches, family, friends and other parents – who have my back.

That is just so cool. I don’t even know how these different people affect my son each day, what they’re saying and doing, how they might be encouraging and showing by example.

But I’m so grateful. What a relief I don’t have to figure it out all by myself.

I wonder if any of them can patch drywall.